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Detroit Free Press Article on Brian Sell (Read 1363 times)


Think Whirled Peas

    Copied here w/o permission!!!! Don't tell on me! Evil grin THE ROAD TO BEIJING 2008 | MARATHON HARD AT WORK: Life's winding path leads Sell to the Olympic trials October 28, 2007 BY JO-ANN BARNAS FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER He knows it will be in his future -- that one day, Brian Sell and his wife, Sarah, will return to their rural central Pennsylvania roots in Woodbury, to the three-bedroom white farmhouse and 250 acres that have been in his family for generations. He'll open a dental practice nearby, perhaps in Roaring Spring. He'll smile at the sight of their children running alongside the clip-clop of horse-drawn buggies belonging to their Mennonite neighbors. When he was a kid, Brian used to race them, too, often a half mile up the hill leading to the house. But there's also something else looming in Sell's future, something far less predictable. It's all part of the uncertain nature of his current profession as one of the nation's top distance runners. The U.S. Olympic men's marathon trials take center stage next Saturday in New York City. Sell is among 134 runners -- including 24 with Michigan ties -- who have qualified for the 26.2-mile race through Central Park, where crowds are expected to top 100,000. The first three finishers will earn a trip to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. With a personal-best 2:10:47, Sell's time ranks him fifth behind American marathon record-holder Khalid Khannouchi, Ryan Hall, Abdi Abdiraham and Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist. Sell is prepared to run faster than he ever has on race day. But one thing he doesn't know is this: Will the effort be enough? Learning on the go It's a line on Sell's running résumé that has been there for years -- maybe since 2001, when Sell joined the Rochester Hills-based Hansons-Brooks Distance Project shortly after graduating from Saint Francis (Pa.) University. In a question-and-answer section, Sell is asked: Who are you? His answer: "I am Brian Sell, a redneck from the Cove that likes to run." Suffice it to say, Sell is much more complex than that. "How much time do you have?" said Clint Verran, one of Sell's closest teammates. "He's a complex guy, but he would deny it completely because he sees himself as a simple, hard-work-pays-off type of guy. He's a study of contrasts. He's a genuine competitor -- he wants to beat you and he wants to beat you bad, and he'll go through any amount of pain to achieve that end. "But on the other hand, if I ever needed anything, if I needed his help in the middle of the night, he'd spring into action. So in one sense, he's my best buddy and we're great friends, but when it comes to competition, he wants to take out my throat." Verran and Sell were part of a watershed moment for the Hansons' club at the 2004 U.S. Olympic men's marathon trials in Birmingham, Ala. Verran, who grew up in Lake Orion, was fifth in the race behind Hansons teammate Trent Briney, who lopped an incredible eight minutes off his best time and finished fourth to be the first U.S. Olympic team alternate to the Athens Games. Sell, meanwhile, became known in that race for his stunning early move (he took the lead at Mile 7, into a strong wind) and disastrous finish (he flamed out at the 21st mile, relinquishing his lead and finishing 13th). As he looks back today, Sell pinpoints two critical errors. "I ran a couple of 4:51's in there -- around (Mile) 12 to 16," he said of his minutes-per-mile pace. "I should have kept it around 5 minutes." And the second mistake: "The big thing I learned from that race was the importance of hydration. I took no Gatorade or goo after three miles. I remember running those miles into town, the people were going nuts, and it was exciting, but I was running right past the fluid stations. Never again." Sell contemplated quitting running after the Olympic trials that year. But Keith Hanson and his brother, Kevin, who began their program in 1999 in an attempt to help resurrect distance running in the United States, knew the experience would benefit him. "A lot has been said about that race, but I think those 2004 trials are what made Brian into the great marathoner that he is today," Keith Hanson said. Hanson recalled another anecdote from the earlier days, shortly after Sell moved to Michigan as an unheralded small-college star. Sell had transferred from Messiah College -- where he met Sarah, his future wife -- to Saint Francis in Loretto, Pa., closer to home, after his sophomore year. A high point: Sell, a former high school wrestler, runner and football player, qualified for the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Championships in 2001 in Eugene, Ore. -- and he has the photograph to prove it. "There's Ryan Shay," Sell says of the former Notre Dame star from Central Lake, who's shown in the picture leading the pack in the final. "Ryan won, like, by a minute. He lapped me." Asked how he finished, Sell smiled and shook his head. "Bad," he said. "Thirty-one minutes, maybe -- second or third from last." Which brings Keith Hanson to his story about Sell. "After he got here, we were at a real small meet at Eastern Michigan University -- we had found unattached competition for cross-country," Hanson said. "There was another athlete on our team who was a great guy but had a tendency to be the short-cut guy. He would always run a couple of miles shorter than he was supposed to that day, or miss an afternoon run. This guy was a very talented individual, but Brian was always doing everything, plus. In that race, that athlete beat Brian, and Brian was very discouraged. I remember sitting down with him and saying, 'Brian, five years from now, everybody will know exactly who you are and what you can do and nobody will know who that person is.' "I don't know if Brian believed me then, but boy, did it come true." Motivation to win "Here they come." It's shortly before 8 a.m., a Thursday, and a pack of Hansons runners is striding down Sheldon Road, heading toward Stony Creek Metro Park in Rochester Hills. Sell is by far not the only local qualifier who will race in NYC on Saturday. An astonishing 13 Hansons members met the Olympic qualifying standard -- the largest contingent of marathoners from one club in the country. The athletes are in their so-called taper stage, logging fewer miles as race day approaches. "It's always a little bit tense of a tense time period, waiting for the start to occur," Keith Hanson said. "There's nothing they can do at this point other than to wait." Sell, 29, was up at 6:15 that morning, the same time his automatic coffee maker turned on. He checked the temperature outside -- 39 degrees -- which meant it was chilly enough to wear a long-sleeved shirt over his shorts and a blue stocking hat for his jog down the road to pick up Verran on their way to meet the group for a 10-mile run. Since the 2004 Olympic trials, Sell has become a smarter and more confident runner. In January 2006, he was the winner in the U.S. half-marathon championships. He followed that with a 2:10:55 to finish fourth overall -- and the second American -- in the Boston Marathon. Six months later, he lowered his personal marathon best yet again, placing sixth in the Chicago Marathon with a time of 2:10:47. "I get sweaty palms when I think about it," said Sarah Sell, Brian's wife, about Saturday's trials race. "Every day he gets four or five good-luck cards from friends around the country." What makes Brian Sell run? Look no further than Sarah, the woman he married in May 2005, and the daughter who was born in May of this year. Five-month-old Lily Sell has her father's blue eyes -- and his temperament, Sarah says. "He's pretty efficient in everything he does, and she's the same way, if you can believe it," Sarah said. "Brian mows the yard fast. He takes a shower fast. She's the same way, even at 5 months she can gulp down a 6-ounce bottle in five minutes and she won't spit up. One little burp, that's it." The prize money that Sell has won from his races goes into a college fund for Lily and their future children, he said. Sarah Sell works three days a week as a nurse at Beaumont Hospital in Troy. Brian Sell said he has no intentions of quitting his job working at the Home Depot in Rochester -- a position he got through the company's Olympic jobs program. Sell works in the garden department -- and he's so beloved by his coworkers they brought in a cake last week to celebrate his upcoming Olympic trials race. Many of the employees wore red, white and blue under their orange aprons. After his workout last Thursday, Sell headed to work at the Home Depot on Avon Road in his Dodge pickup for his 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. "I call him 'Jammin' because, man, he's a worker,' " said John Gee, 39, of Auburn Hills. Sell certainly was working last Thursday. When he arrived at the store, he was told he needed to help put together a display for snow shovels in the garden center. That included fastening the heavy steel rails -- a job that required the aid of a couple of stomps of his foot. "The day he hired in, everybody was saying, 'We have an Olympic guy at the store,' " Steve Zahn, 57, of Troy, said. Sell, overhearing Zahn's remark, responded: "Yeah, but you guys also said, 'If you don't make it, don't bother coming back.' " Zahn laughed. "Don't listen to him," he said. "We're all behind him -- he's our guy." Contact JO-ANN BARNAS at 313-222-2037 or jbarnas@freepress.com.

    Just because running is simple does not mean it is easy.


    Marathonmanleto

      He's the real deal. I ran into him and the other Hanson's runners at the Detroit Marathon Expo last weekend. I mentioned to my wife that Brian Sell was giving out autographs. In actuallity, he was hard at work processing a credit card transaction for a customer. The "Distance Project" boys were all busy selling their wares for the Hansons. All very approachable--including Brian who was glad to talk about the upcoming trials race. Really looking forward to the race on Saturday--good luck guys!


      Think Whirled Peas

        Yeah, I'm so new to the sport that I had no idea those guys were at the Expo. I just read the article in the paper over the weekend and figured the RA gang would enjoy it.

        Just because running is simple does not mean it is easy.


        Imminent Catastrophe

          He (and the Hanson-Brooks team in general) had a LOT of fans at the trials, the atmosphere was incredible when he finished.

          "Able to function despite imminent catastrophe"

           "To obtain the air that angels breathe you must come to Tahoe"--Mark Twain

          "The most common question from potential entrants is 'I do not know if I can do this' to which I usually answer, 'that's the whole point'.--Paul Charteris, Tarawera Ultramarathon RD.

           

          √ Tahoe Rim Trail 100M 20/21 July 2013

          Boston Marathon 21 April 2014

          Tahoe Rim Trail 100M 19/20 July 2014


          Marathonmanleto

            Tuesday night I ran with some of the folks that made the trip to NYC to cheer the team on. They certainly have a loyal following . Brian's finish is a strong endorsement for the Hanson's Team philosophy. Can't hurt for potential sponsorship deals either.
              Whenever I go into Hanson's store in Lake Orion, I always end up grilling the people who work there about their running. These men and women are amazing athletes and very dedicated. Thanks for the article Q.


              My Little Pal

                Whenever I go into Hanson's store in Lake Orion, I always end up grilling the people who work there about their running. These men and women are amazing athletes and very dedicated. Thanks for the article Q.
                Is there a Hanson's store in Brighton MI.? Seems like I've heard my brother mention that name before.
                At the end of the day, be happy with where you are and what you've accomplished.
                  I'm not sure Ray. I know they have stores in Lake Orion, Royal Oak, and Utica which are in Oakland/Macomb counties. I'm not aware of any more. With the training house in Rochester, I kinda doubt they'd have a store in Brighton.