May 6, 2008
By Pete Rea/Zap Fitness/Running Journal/April 2008
In the spring of 1988 I took my first trip to Tallahassee, FL, for the TAC (now USATF) National Junior Track and Field Championships. Between events, my coach and I drove to the countryside for runs on the parks and dirt roads that circle the capital city. At the time I remember being surprised at the dearth of quality long distance runners living and training in this city with so many great venues. Moreover, the university’s (FL State) track program was primarily a sprints and jumps program. Their in-state rival (University of FL) was the reigning “distance school” in the Sunshine State. Two decades later Tallahassee has transformed itself into one of (if not THE) it town for distance running not only in Florida, but also perhaps in the country. How did it happen?
When Florida State Head Track and Field Coach Bob Braman arrived in Tallahassee in 2000, he brought with him a culture of long distance running from his former job at the University of South Florida. While there, Braman took the Tampa based mid- major Division I school to national prominence with teams that consistently qualified for the NCAA Championships and produced individuals such as two-time NCAA 5,000m Champion (’92 and ’93) Jon Dennis. “Bob was and is the most passionate distance running coach I have ever seen,” said Dennis. “He would strap track spikes on during a cross-country race and make his way to 10 or 12 spots on the course to scream at us. His energy was infectious, and he made us all want to be our best.”
Upon his arrival in Tallahassee, Braman immediately made distance running a priority at Florida State, and it did not take long before All-American plaques were being hung in large numbers in his office. Like his South Florida Bulls teams of the ’80s and ’90s, Seminole distance teams began seeing national rankings. In 2006 and 2007 Florida State won the men’s NCAA Track and Field Championship, and Braman was named National Coach of the Year. In the fall of 2007, the Florida State women’s cross-country team finished third at the NCAA Championship under new women’s director Karen Harvey. The worm had definitely turned in the direction of Tallahassee, FL. So much so that America’s Foot Locker National high school champion in 2007 — Michael Fout of Indiana — just signed a letter of intent to run for coach Braman beginning in the fall of 2008.