Brad's last run?
June 11, 2008 · Updated 4:28 PM
"Time is running out on the Olympic dreams harbored by Brad Barquist.Hobbled by injuries that have waylaid his training schedule, America's top 10,000-meter runner at the 1996 Atlanta games left for the Olympic trials Friday in a long-shot bid for a place on this year's team.It might be the last competitive race for the Bainbridge Island resident, who has served as an assistant track coach at Klahowya Secondary School.It's not looking all that favorable, Barquist said last week in assessing his prospects. But all the time lines, everything I've set myself up to do, ends this summer. So I'm determined to go and hope things fall in my favor, (rather) than not to go at all.Barquist set progressive goals for each Olympiad in the last decade. In 1992, his goal was to qualify for the Olympic time trials, which he did. In 1996, his goal was to make the Olympic team. Again, that was accomplished.This year, his goal is to win an Olympic medal at the games in Sydney.A few months ago, that goal looked achievable to the 31-year-old runner.I had a great spring, he said. I was ahead of schedule in terms of fitness, and had no reason to believe I wouldn't run my fastest race ever.But then his right hamstring started to deteriorate. And that posed an almost insoluble dilemma. To let the hamstring heal, he needed to rest. But to have any hope of being an Olympic contender, he needed to train.Most of the time during the day, something hurts, he said. I have to find a balance between training hard and not aggravating the injuries.Barquist said his injury problems actually began during his training for the Atlanta Olympics when he sprained his right ankle severely, first during a race, then while training in Bainbridge Island's Grand Forest.Because he was in the best shape of his life, Barquist was able to maintain a competitive level of performance even with reduced training. But doing so required plenty of help from doctors and trainers.I could hardly get out of bed in the morning and walk, Barquist said. But by going to rehab two or three times a day, the trainers got me to a point where I could run.The bad ankle almost kept Barquist home in 1996. He finished just out of the money at the Olympic trials. But because he had beaten what is known as an Olympic A Standard qualifying time of 28:10 before he was hurt, he made the team when a runner who topped him in the trials failed to post an A-standard time.At the games themselves, Barquist ran 29:11 in a preliminary race, and fell just short of moving into the finals.Considering the heat and humidity, and the way my training had been going, I felt that it was a pretty good run, he said. I was only disappointed because I was in so much better shape earlier.But Barquist paid a price for being able to perform at the Olympics. His ankle had to be heavily taped, and although the tape protected the ankle enough to make running possible, he believes it led to tendonitis, which, in turn, led to some of the injuries he is now experiencing.As I'm getting older and continuing to abuse my body, it has started to catch up to me, he said.And although he is used to running hurt, the problems are different this time than they were in 1996.The injuries don't seem to be as manageable, he said. In 1996, I hurt pretty bad, but functionally, I could maintain speed and power.With all of his setbacks, he knows that his chances are not good at the July 14 Olympic trials in Sacramento. He has not run an A-standard time this year, and is not likely to do so because there are almost no 10K competitions between the trials and the games. So he believes that his only chance to make the team is to win the race outright.To give himself a shot, Barquist said he and Alan Bonney, his coach, have settled on a conservative strategy of running from the pack and hoping to move up.Usually, I know exactly how fast I can run and what my lap times need to be, and I run near the front, Barquist said. But now, I don't know because I haven't had the training time. So I'll move my way up through the field, and hopefully, I can win the race.While admitting that victory is unlikely, Barquist can't see stopping the process this close to the conclusion.It's ridiculous to think of not continuing to the middle of July, he said.When September and October roll around, I can go to sleep at night knowing I've done everything I can towards everything I set out to do.Whether the Olympic quest ended Friday, or in Sydney at the games themselves, Barquist said he thinks his running career is over this year.I'm heavily leaning towards retirement, he said. I'm not enjoying it at all. At the very least, I need a long break to let my body heal up and let my head heal up too.The time required for training has precluded development of a career, Barquist said. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in communications, Barquist went to work at a firm in Seattle that produced graphics for business presentations.But between workouts, he kept falling asleep. So he went to full-time running, interrupted by diversions such as his summer Olympic Peaks cross country camp near Port Townsend and his stint as the public address announcer at Bainbridge High School basketball games.Barquist is exploring jobs related to running, including a job at Oregon State University, a position at Nike, and possible coaching positions. But even though running has given him what he calls the foundation for a career, that payoff hasn't yet come through.And he admits to some envy towards high school friends who have careers, a good income and retirement accounts.Time will tell whether he has made the right decision about the direction of his life over the last few years.Probably I'll be glad I did the running, Barquist said, but right now I'm kind of wondering. If I make the Olympic team, it will be well worth it.Anything short of that will make me wonder if I could have done something differently."