Bryce Anderson – A glimpse of the future – Feature by Jaryd Clifford – Runner’s Tribe

”I know I’m not the most talented runner in the world. I’m a grinder. I can hurt.”

In the mountains, a lone runner pounds the dirt. Through the lashing rain, his hardened legs skip through the puddles, powering forward into the mist. At nearly 2000m above sea level, his lungs gasp for air. His arms pump frantically, his face grimaces under the strain, but there is no relenting. This young runner does not fear suffering, does not hear his body screaming at him to halt his procession of pain. He hardly feels at all. Years of toil and grit – thousands of kilometres – has given him the ability to suppress the urge of stopping, and in its place the power to endure. His words – “when it gets hard you have to realise that you have to keep pushing” – spells out the persistent philosophy of one of Australian distance running’s rising stars.

As I sit down with Bryce Anderson in a lodge overlooking the Perisher Valley, I sense a feeling of nervous expectation. The Zatopek 10,000m is only two weeks away. His tall and slender body – strong but awkwardly slanted – faces me. His eyes glinting a burning intent. As we begin to chat, he speaks softly, but with a tone exuding only confidence. At 21 years of age, his potential is exciting. His ability to recognise it even more so. “Each year I get more experienced. I get stronger. In the last six weeks, I’ve been able to hit another level. Certainly, I’m in the best form of my life.”  With Zatopek looming, this statement should excite the distance running community.

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A young Bryce Anderson began running in the mornings before school. He would wake up early, slip on his shoes and head out into the frosty Canberra air. “I just liked it. We had a fair bit of land and I just used to run around the fence line before I went to school.” This self-imposed morning ritual ignited his passion for the sport. At the age of 15, he began a two-year training apprenticeship – running with Philo Saunders, a young Brett Robinson and his idol, Olympian Martin Dent. “In the early days I would just try run with them. I was running with some of the best runners in Australia. I would just listen and watch how they trained. Someone like Marty I really admire. I watched how hard he trains and it showed me that it was possible for me to be like him one day.”

As Bryce improved, he took the plunge and joined forces with one of Australia’s most high-profile training groups – under the direction of sports-scientist and distance running guru Dick Telford. “Dick is a legend of Australian running. The group has a great atmosphere and everyone has their different strengths. I quickly began to get better and better.” Now 17 and taking the sport more seriously he set himself the goal of donning the green and gold.

Contrary to what many may consider the ‘traditional’ pathway for promising junior runners, Bryce debuted for Australia by submitting himself to an event that he believes is the “hardest you can do”. For three consecutive years, he ran in the junior race of the World Mountain Running Championships, eliciting a best performance of 33rd in 2015. Animatedly he recounts the experience, “It has really helped me for what I am doing now. I don’t think I’ve been in so much pain since. I honestly don’t think any other race can replicate that kind of pain.” A run in the World Cross Country soon followed, cementing himself in the upper echelon of domestic distance running.

Bryce competing for Australia at the World Mountain Running Championships

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After establishing Bryce’s background my line of questioning soon took on a more Zatopek feel. It was at last year’s race that he made his sensational 10,000m debut. Breezing through the first half in 14:35 – a 5000m PB at the time – he was soon stepping into the unknown territory of twenty-five laps of the track. Better runners would have folded under the wildly inclement conditions that night – and some did – but into the second half, he battled on. “I was able to just tough it out more than I ever have before,” his voice rising slightly in reflection. The result – 8th in 29:37.26 – in his own words, “I just had a good run.”

This year’s race evokes a different atmosphere. His posture straightens, his answers are unwavering and I sense the high importance with which he holds this race. With another 10,000m under his belt earlier in the year (12th at the World University Games in Taiwan), Bryce is returning as a more experienced runner. “It is the pinnacle of the year. Ever since the race last year, it has been a target of mine. I’m certainly looking for a fast time and I’m really excited about seeing how quick I can go,” he says, not attempting to conceal his enthusiasm. Sharing in his enthusiasm is his esteemed training partner – 3:37 1500m runner – Jordan Gusman, who has witnessed first-hand, Bryce go “from strength to strength”, and believes without a doubt he is in the “best shape of his life.” From my witnessing in Perisher, I can only agree.

Dicks’s squad training hard. Photo courtesy of Dillon Vibes. Instagram handle: @Dillonvibes

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For Bryce, the future is abundant with opportunity. At the conclusion of the domestic season, he plans to base himself in Europe for his first international season of racing. “I have realised that if I want to take that next step, I have to get overseas, get in some fast races and get that international experience.” This experience will serve him well as he sets his sights on a future on the roads and a future racing the “pinnacle of distance running”, the Marathon. “Dick is arguably one of the best Marathon coaches in the world. We have so many good marathoners in our squad right now – Michael Shelley, Chris Hamer, Lisa Weightman – who are all looking at Commonwealth Games. I think naturally that is where I’m headed.” At the dawn of his career, these words promise an exciting prospect for Australian marathon running.

ANSW Championships ’17: Photo courtesy Athletics NSW

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As I wrap up the interview, I envision the soft blue track of Lakeside Stadium. I see the runners hurtling past, the crowd enclosing them in a wall of noise. It is easy to see why this prestigious race is so important to Australian runners. It is in this atmosphere that champions are born. On the 14th of December, it is where Bryce Anderson plans to take his next step in the world of running.

Fact File

Name Bryce Anderson

Age 21 (born. 1996)

Residence Canberra

Coach Dick Telford

Weekly Mileage 140-150km

Personal Bests:

1500m – 3:50.66 (2017)

3000m – 8:03.41 (2017)

5000m – 14:12.87 (2017)

10,000m – 29:37.26 (2016)

10km – 30:13 (2016)

Top Five Races

2015 World Junior XC Trials – 1st (breakthrough run)

2017 Zatopek 10,000m – 8th, 29:37 (First sub-30)

2017 World University Games 10,000m – 12th

2015 World Cross Country – Junior Race

2017 NSW 3000m – 2nd, 8:03

Three key sessions in the lead up to Zatopek 2017

4xMile (6min cycle) + 5x200m (1min)

6x1km (4min cycle)

Quarters/8x400m (200m float)

End

Feature by Jaryd Clifford – Runner’s Tribe

Running up into the snow line on my trek to the Kosciouszko summit in pursuit of Australia’s highest peak ❄️ #2228m

A post shared by Jaryd Clifford (@jarydclifford) on

Main cover photo by Ewa Facioni

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