Brett Gotcher: Building Speed for Rotterdam Marathon: RBR Exclusive, by Jon Gugala

Brett Gotcher, photo by

Brett Gotcher is an example of how American distance runners, if developed and supported, can become world class. Gotcher was a fine high school runner, coached by Dan Gruber, a former co-worker at Runners' World in the 1980s and a top runner in the 1970s and 1980s in the state of California. Gruber, who coaches at Aptos High, has developed a steady stream of fine runners off a novel plan: spending the time to figure out what works for the athlete, and not putting too much on them early. 

Brett ran well in college, coached by Vinn Lannana, and when he graduated, he started training for the longer distances. His 2:10.36 debut in 2010 Houston was a tremendous race. He learnt about the roads and marathon training with Greg McMillan, again, a coach who gets it. McMillan has developed a strong training group, and has given a generation of athletes a chance to develop. With his sponsor support (adidas, among them), Greg builds his runners over the years, and Brett developed under his tutelage. 

Brett's fifth place in the Olympic Trials was gutty: in no-mans land, but focused, Brett learnt much from that race. 

Brett Gotcher is now focused on the Rotterdam Marathon. One of the fastest and most famous marathons in Europe, Rotterdam has screaming fast winning times. As Jon Gugala, in this exclusive for and, tells us, Brett wants to get under two hours, ten minutes. 

We wish him luck! 

Brett Gotcher Building Speed for Rotterdam Marathon


by Jon Gugala


APTOS, Calif. - The Boston Marathon is in the spring, as inevitable as death, taxes, and Red Sox fans (go Giants). Everyone knows that. So every April American marathon fans turn east, and the running media dusts off Greg Meyer, and with him still blinking into the bright lights launches full speed into speculation of If This Year Will Be It, when an American man will win again. (I imagine Meyer devolving into a blubbering pile every March, rocking back and forth and moaning over his Sisyphean task of doing the same interview every year since his win in 1983.)


And American elite athletes look toward Boston with the same consistency. Boston's elite program leads domestically in appearance fees for a spring payday, and so if you're a U.S. marathoner you hope you're brought into the John Hancock field so that you can eat for the rest of the year.


But for McMillan Elite's Brett Gotcher, 2013 will be different, because this year he's not going to Boston. He's not even going to London. This year, Brett Gotcher is going to Rotterdam.


"It's hard [not running Boston] because it is a big part of your yearly income," Gotcher, who was added to the 2011 Boston field but withdrew due to injury, says, "but I feel like at some point you just have to make a sacrifice for the greater goal, which is to run fast. I feel like a lot of guys get caught up in doing races, chasing appearance fees, when it doesn't necessarily fit in with trying to run faster, and they just keep running the same times. I don't want to go to Boston and get eighth place."


For Gotcher, it is all about the time--at least for now: "You can run fast [in Boston], obviously, but it's not set up to. My goal is still to try and run fast. I still have this bad feeling that I haven't broken 2:10 yet."


Maybe shunning Boston for Rotterdam shouldn't be that much of a surprise for those who've followed Gotcher's career: the 28-year-old became the fourth-fastest American ever to debut at the distance when he ran 2:10:36 not at Chicago, New York, or Boston, but at the 2010 Houston Marathon, another fast race off the beaten path. In fact, all three of his marathon performances have been there.


"I don't feel like I can go into Boston and compete with guys if I am not at that [sub-2:10] level, mentally," he says. "That was the main reason for looking outside of Boston for a fast race."


Rotterdam, this year on April 14, is very, very fast. Three world records have been set on the course (two men's and a women's'), the Dutch men's national record, and the site of the fastest men's marathon times in the world in 2009 and '10.


But Rotterdam doesn't just produce fast times, it produces breakout performances. Of the last six years, five of the men who won had to set a PR to do so, and of those five, four still hold that mark as their current best. Rotterdam is magic.


American results in Rotterdam are inconsistent. James Carney, the highest-placing American man in the last six years, traveled there in 2010 with goals similar to Gotcher's, but faded to 2:15:50 for 13th. Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, a 2008 Olympian, set her PR of 2:26:22 that same year, finishing runner-up.


In 2013, there will again be that famous main pack of men that will go out fast--three of the last five years were won in 2:04:xx. But unique this year is a group of Dutch men who, like Gotcher, will be looking to run around 2:09. And because the race will be looking to support their domestics' success with pacers, Gotcher says all he has to do is "just sit on them." 


Rotterdam has yet to release its full elite field, though they have announced that Sammy Kitwara, a 2:05:54-marathoner who was fourth in the 2012 Chicago Marathon, will lead their field. He has announced a goal of running in the 2:04s. Two of possible Dutch nationals that Gotcher could be competing with are Michel Butter (PR: 2:09:58, 2012 Amsterdam) and Koen Raymaekers (PR: 2:10:35, 2012 Rotterdam). Both have PRs from the 10,000m through the marathon that shadow Gotcher's.


But regardless of who shows up on race day in Rotterdam, this year Brett Gotcher can guarantee you he won't be with the rest of the American elites in Boston. That's not to say he won't ever be. Maybe someday he will even win it, and Greg Meyer can stop crying himself to sleep every spring. But in order to get back to Boston, Gotcher will first go abroad.


"It went like this," Gotcher says. "I want[ed] to find a fast race. What else is out there?"

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