The U.S. Olympic trials for the marathon will take place Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, and Brandon Birdsong-Johnson, a Lubbock native, will be there competing as an Olympic hopeful.
Birdsong-Johnson, 27, is a graduate of Monterey High School. He ran in for the University of Texas and then Adams State in Colorado. Currently, he lives in Alamosa, Colorado where he is getting his MBA. He returned to Lubbock where his coach and family are to finish out his last few weeks of training before the marathon.
“My goal is just being satisfied with my performance, that I gave it the best shot that I could, that I performed up to my ability because,” Birdsong said, “if I do perform up to my ability, I will be in the top 15, in the top 10.”
The top three finishers at the trials get spots on the Olympic Team, and while Birdsong-Johnson admits it would be a long shot to make the team, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility.
“Mentally going into it, I always prepare for [that outcome]. I’m a competitor. I don’t want to go in and stress myself; if the race unfolds and I’m there, I’m going to give it 100 percent,” he said.
For all 26 miles of this race, he hopes to run at a five minute mile pace.
Birdsong-Johnson qualified for the marathon in 2014 by running the half marathon in Houston with a time of 1:04:21.
He’s been training for the marathon trials since then, but for a while his hopes were set back by injury.
“In 2014 after I qualified for the trials, I had some foot issues, and I ran on a broken foot for about 6 weeks and ended up fracturing it and separating the bone,” he said. “So, they had to go in there and do micro-fracture to my talus, and they kind of cleaned it our a little bit.”
For three months after that surgery, Birdsong-Johnson wasn’t able to walk. But now over a year after surgery, he’s running intense some intense mileage at incredibly fast paces.
“He’s still super fit right now, he’s mentally ready to go, which is a huge battle in and of itself,” said Birdsong-Johnson’s coach Quent Bearden, of Lubbock. “If we can get him to the starting line healthy it will be a great victory and it will be fantastic.”
Bearden said this is the first time he’s worked with an athlete who’s headed to the U.S. Olympic trials.
Bearden described Birdsong-Johnson as “a workhorse.”
“He’s obviously extremely talented, just a gifted athlete, but you really got to keep the reigns on him, because he’d work himself to death if you don’t,” Bearden explained.
Currently, Birdsong Johnson is running between 100 and 120 miles each week as well as running on Wellness Today’s underwater treadmills. His hard workouts include days where he runs for 15 miles at fast pace and then runs again later in the day, putting in more mileage with a speed workout.
Bearden sees the trials as a training opportunity for Birdsong-Johnson, he believes his athlete will compete in more Olympic trials in the future. As a coach, Bearden, is glad to see the support from Lubbock around Birdsong-Johnson’s running career.
“Running doesn’t get a lot of the publicity that other sports in this area get. So for running to get a little limelight now is fantastic, it’s a good change of pace,” Bearden said.
For Birdsong-Johnson, it feels fitting to finish his last weeks of training in Lubbock, because it’s the place where he fell in love with running.
Birdsong-Johnson started off as a soccer player, but in high school, he began running competitively and eventually hoping to pursue racing long term.
“I wanted to make it a career, it was always a dream, a very far fetched dream at the time,” he said.
“I really love the work aspect of it and actually pushing my body to the limit a couple times a week. That’s where I find that I grow,” Birdsong-Johnson continued. “I really enjoy day after day just seeing what I can do with my body, I love the hurt.”
He said that being close to family and friends in Lubbock has given him the extra push he needs in his training.
Bearden added that Birdsong-Johnson’s charisma and friendly disposition have earned him many fans in Lubbock.
“He’s like everybody’s son to a degree [in Lubbock], so everybody wants to be a part,” Bearden explained. “I didn’t get to run in the Olympic trials, but if I can help him, there’s a part of me that’s going with him.”
Both the West Texas Running Club and Schlotsky’s Deli helped to fundraise for some of Birdsong-Johnson’s race expenses.
Johnson is grateful to many people: his coach, his family, his friends, and the running community. While he’s the one running the race he explained that their support helped him get to the starting line.
“Running is a sport where there’s a lot of detail that goes into it, and it’s not just about me running, a lot of people are important the recovery, the rehab,” he said. “Having the ability to run for something bigger than yourself, I think that’s when greatness happens.”