OU - STAYING THE COURSE
Provided by OU
By Samantha Franz
Have you ever looked at someone who said they were going to run a marathon and thought they were crazy? How about someone whose longest race prior to the 26.2 miles was a 10K (6.2 miles)?
That was a challenge that Brittni Hutton (2010-13) put herself up against when she competed in the American Discovery Trail Marathon in Colorado Springs, Colo. this past summer. Hutton not only completed the race, but she won it, finishing with an impressive time of 2 hours, 57 minutes and 25 seconds.
Not bad for a first-timer.
Taking the Scenic Route to Oakland
But like all great stories, it is important to press "rewind" in order to fully grasp the gravity of what an accomplishment like this means to Hutton. It all begins with Hutton's first point of contact with Oakland University cross country head coach Paul Rice at Milford High School.
And the fashion industry.
"I literally said the words to him, `You don't have a fashion major at the school. I don't know if that's going to work for me,'" Hutton said. "I blew the guy off without ever giving him a chance-that was really ignorant of me. I had no clue what I was doing when looking at colleges in high school, let alone in the running world in college."
Hutton ran for one year at Western Michigan University, but discovered that the school wasn't quite the right fit and Hutton felt like she was losing some of her fire for running. That's when she transferred to Oakland Community College, where she credits coach Tony Brocco for helping the inspiration to run and race passionately return to her.
During this difficult transition period, Hutton was battling bulimia and when some days looked darker than others, she called upon a mentor from her past.
"In my heart, I knew I was stronger and during this time, I reflected on running at Milford High School, under Coach Brian Salyers," she said. "He may not know it, but I always look back to Milford and the philosophies I learned running under Sal. I lost these philosophies for a short while, but regained them soon enough once I remembered the important things in life."
With renewed vigor, Hutton worked hard at OCC and in 2009, fate decided to intervene and bring a familiar face back onto Hutton's life.
In 2009, Rice and the Golden Grizzlies crossed paths with Hutton again when OCC competed with them at the Hillsdale Relays.
"I remember racing against Kelsey Carmean (2007-11)," she said. "She ran a great race and there I was, hanging on tight with her. I didn't run outstanding, but I ran well enough for Coach Rice to look at me and think, That kid's got something and I can make her a Division I athlete again.'"
Rice did just that for Hutton. And more.
Golden Grizzly Strong
Hutton switched her field of study to communication and found her niche at Oakland. From there, everything fell into place.
"As a Golden Grizzly, I learned a lot about balance and perseverance," she said. "I worked a part-time job at Student Video Productions, starting out as the organization's secretary and by my senior year, became the President of SVP. I absolutely loved working for SVP. It helped me keep a healthy balance with school and running. To this day, perseverance is my backbone, and it keeps my legs running."
Her success on the course as a Golden Grizzly was reflective of that new-found balance. By her senior year, Hutton was named The Summit League Athlete of the Year and won the conference individual championship. Stellar athletic and academic performances pepper her collegiate resume and Hutton credits her success to overcoming her fears.
"I was so afraid sometimes," said Hutton "I was afraid of success and I was sometimes afraid to challenge myself and my teammates because I didn't want them to think I was `mean.' I wanted to fit in, but I realized that as much as I wanted some of my teammates to like me, that idea by the end of the day didn't necessarily matter. The thing that mattered the most was coming closer to victory and making a name for myself.
"I was happy to make that sacrifice and I only hoped that my drive and determination would have been seen as motivation by my teammates. Coach Rice reassured me about this decision every day, though. His opinion was the only opinion that mattered."
Hard Work Pays Off
Upon graduation, Hutton was presented with the opportunity to move to Colorado to join the American Distance Project to train with other distance runners. While she is no longer affiliated with the ADP, Hutton currently runs for the Boulder Running Company/adidas and hopes to very soon decide whom she would like to be coached by.
"Things happen for a reason," said Hutton. "I don't regret moving to Colorado or training with the ADP for a short time. I know great things are bound to captivate my life and all it takes is time and my dedication."
One of those great things was to complete her first marathon, an experience that was brand new to Hutton. Prior to her race, her lengthiest competitive run was a 10K and her longest run ever was 17 miles.
"I didn't have a ton of training or workouts under my belt, but I just needed to run - hard," she said. "It doesn't make a lot of sense, but I just had to do this."
That's how Hutton found herself at the starting line of the ADT, a beautiful course of mostly trail running. When the gun sounded, she focused on her pace.
"I was taking every step as serious as ever though and my pace even more serious," she said.
A good friend of her offered her advice that Hutton took to heart. "She said that it's so important to stick to pace and save your speed and energy for the last half of the race," she said. "When I thought about going faster, I reminded myself to stay on pace because I had 13 miles to go!"
She consistently kept her pace and passed the third-place runner just shy of the halfway point. Hutton realized she had a chance to win the whole thing, but she had to believe.
"Once I started getting closer to first, that's when being positive really meant the most," said Hutton. "Over and over I repeated to myself, `I can do this.' At mile 20, my watch died, leaving me with the last pace I looked at to be 6:27. I stayed calm, [which is] something I forget to do often, and took a second to remember that the last six miles will be [about] effort, not pace."
Hutton's perseverance and discipline paid off in mile 22, when she finally caught up to the leader, who had maintained the pole position the entire race.
"When I passed the girl in first, she either said to me, `Yeah, that's racing girl,' or `Way to race, girl,'" Hutton said. "Either or, it brought a boost of confidence to me and there was no backing down."
Her 2:57:25 finish at the ADT Marathon was an age group course record, crushing the previous mark of 3:28:45 set in 2013. She also easily qualified for the Boston Marathon, but for now, Hutton's priorities are letting her body adjust to a new move and a new school, as she has her eyes set on a masters program at Adams State University and starting a career in their Extended Studies distance learning program.
"Enhancing my education is other most important thing I care about next to running," Hutton said. "I don't have Boston in mind, although it would be a great race to race at! I think [everything] will get figured out when I have a coach's guidance again."
In the meantime, Hutton lives in Alamosa, Colo. and when she is not running or working on her educational goals, she enjoys catching up on her Netflix queue, honing in her skills in the kitchen and learning the value of a much-deserved nap.
Many people have inspired Hutton on her journey from an 18-year-old aspiring fashion major to a premiere runner, but above all, she credits her upbringing for her transformation into the athlete, and woman, she is today.
"I think coaches have always been the most inspirational people to me because my first coaches and inspirations ever in life were my parents," she said. "They always told me to never give up on myself and to never give in, and ever since I can remember, that has always been with me."
From high school coaches to collegiate mentors on the course and in the classroom to professional athletes, Hutton claims she could write a book of people who have helped and inspired her over the years.
"I only wish to be where they are some day, as an inspiration to women and runners alike," she said. "I can't wait to see where running will take me, but I will also take [everything] one day at a time, because the journey is best part of the big things to come."