The Reluctant Runner
Brunson Transitions From Basketball to Cross Country Greatness
Brittany Brunson hated every moment of winning the conference cross country championship. She despised running in the mud, through the humidity, battling her mind and body as it wanted to shut down along the course’s trails that cut through the UT Tyler campus and trails. There was nothing that brought her joy about that day, at the end of which she was presented the trophy for outrunning 81 competitors.
“I didn’t even really care if I won or not at the end of the race,” Brunson said. “I just wanted it to be over.”
A reluctant runner to begin with, Brunson’s final 25 yards to the finish line on the last day of October was symbolic of her entire running career. The 6K race was a challenge after torrential rainfall the night before made the already challenging course into a slippery and muddy mess.
Brunson would navigate through the course though and had a commanding lead heading to the finish line before her legs began to wobble. The runner who had already won three cross country meets earlier in the season was suddenly at risk of losing her lead and the championship mere steps from the finish line.
There’s a video on the internet showing those grueling last 25 yards that end with
her falling to her knees and then face-first across the finish line – in first place
by less than a second.
Brunson came to Tyler from Austin not intending to become one of the best cross country runners in program history. She wanted to be a basketball player and did just that as a freshman. She would play in 25 games that first year, but at the end of it she decided to focus on school and running – even though she fought that mindset every day she woke up to train.
“There’s no doubt that Brittany is a reluctant runner,” UT Tyler cross county coach Bob Hepler said. “She transitioned from basketball to running, and it’s still tough for her to identify herself as a runner. It’s amazing that she was able to become a conference champion. That’s really just not the type of athlete that she is. She just did that with heart. She’s built her endurance with guts.”
Along with winning the American Southwest Conference Championship, Brunson was also a three-time ASC Runner of the Week and had a strong showing at the NCAA Division III South/Southeast Championships in her final race of her career in Winchester, Virginia. The race, in which she finished 63rd among a contingent of the top runners in the nation on one of the toughest courses, was the conclusion of a cross country career that she never really envisioned.
“I never really feel in love with running,” said Brunson who graduated with a health
studies degree in May. “Something about my senior year was different though. I started
to enjoy the process even after races when I felt like I was about to die. It’s just
not a fun sport for the most part. Suffering through it with my teammates and coaches
is really the only reason I kept going. I questioned why I was running every day,
but then every day I gave myself the answer that I was not going to quit.”
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