This article, written by John Frierson, appeared on GeorgiaDogs.com. Bryan Kamau is senior on the UGA Cross Country team.
Bryan Kamau spent his summer preparing for his future. It’s a future that’s both bright and right around the corner.
To prepare for his final year running for the Georgia cross country and track teams, the senior got up at 4:30 each morning to get in his training runs. That done, and done in New Jersey where Kamau’s internship was happening, he’d go on to his job with UBS, a financial services company.
It was a lot of miles and a lot of hours, but there are seldom shortcuts when you’re chasing your dreams.
When you’ve got your teammates around, and you’re all pushing each other every day, as Kamau did before his breakout junior year, getting up well before dawn isn’t the lonesome burden that it often was this summer, he said.
“It’s very difficult having to run at 4:30, before work, and I’m glad to be back where I can run with the boys,” Kamau said. “At 4:30 you have to go out there and think of the team, even though they’re not running with me. That was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but I’m hoping it pays off this year.”
Born in Kenya, Kamau came to the United States when he was young and later was a star runner for Shiloh High School in Snellville, Ga. Kamau arrived at Georgia a little “underdeveloped,” said Bulldogs distance coach Patrick Cunniff, but right away he was one of the team’s top runners.
His hard work before his junior year led to strong results in cross country and on the track.
“By last year he was consistently our No. 1 runner in cross country, and in particular he made a huge leap in that he scored in two events (at the SEC Indoor Championships), scoring in the 3,000 (meters) and being the anchor in our school-record distance medley,” Cunniff said. “He was able to score at the outdoor SEC meet and he’s qualified for the NCAA Regional championships in three different events, so he showed a huge development.”
Kamau is hoping that development continues in his final season. He has goals, you see.
After placing 16th in the 8K SEC Cross Country Championships last year, narrowly missing out on All-SEC honors (the top seven are first-team and finishers 8-14 are second team), Kamau wants to prove he’s among the best in the conference.
He also wants to advance beyond the NCAA Regionals and qualify for the NCAA Championships. And he doesn’t want to do it alone.
“I definitely want to keep the momentum that I had from last cross country season and also track season, and I also want to improve upon that. I still haven’t had the opportunity to run at nationals and that’s a big goal of mine, especially it being my last year,” he said. “I think going would definitely be 100 times better if I could run with my team, so that’s definitely a team goal and we’ll run our hardest to make it happen.”
Kamau said all this last Friday morning, after an “easy” eight-mile run. That “easy” day was followed by a run of about 18 miles Saturday, the team’s last major mileage day before opening its season Saturday morning at the Western Carolina Invitational.
For a gifted runner like Kamau, who is putting in about 80 training miles a week, Cunniff said, you might think life after collegiate running might include marathons, just for the fun and challenge of it. Don’t count on it.
When asked about running marathons, which he could likely do in about 2:30:00 or better, somewhere around six-minute miles, Kamau didn’t show much enthusiasm for it. He’s put in more than enough heavy mileage for one or two lifetimes, after all.
Kamau said he might be more interested in running local road races, of the 5K or 10K variety.
“It’s always intriguing; most people that have been involved to the extent that Bryan has been and the passion that he has for the sport, they’re going to hang around it to some extent,” Cunniff said. “Yeah, he probably for two or three years could just kind of walk out of the office and win the local 5K. It’s always so hard to predict.”
Unlike his running future, both in the short and long term, which will start playing out this weekend, Kamau’s professional future is much more defined. After working for UBS this summer, the firm offered Kamau a job — and he accepted. He starts in August 2018.
Before he dons the suit and tie every day, Kamau will cover a lot of ground on trails and the track. One reason he’s so excited about his final cross country season is that the SEC Championships will be run at the UGA Golf Course.
Finishing strong, on his home course, would be a great way for Kamau to wrap up his cross country career.
“I think it’s a big deal,” he said. “With the course at home, Coach Cunniff has taken us there multiple times, so I’m hoping to know it like the back of my hand, and I’m sure that will be an advantage when the time comes.”