Brian Miller learned about competition and what it takes to succeed while playing on the basketball court. That knowledge and effort earned him All Conference honors in basketball at American River College and a spot on the basketball team at San Francisco State University. Brian knows what it takes to be a premiere athlete and now channels his drive into running. Brian lives with his family in El Dorado Hills and is a research analyst for an investment firm in the Bay Area. That translates to a lot of commuting but provides Brian the opportunity to train on the hills around Mt. Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands. Brian shares his passion for running plus how his son is a big motivation for the Salmon Falls 50K.
Q: After running a few full marathons, what encouraged you to push yourself further?
A: One of my early marathons included the Lake Tahoe Marathon that has some great scenery and some tough hills. Then I was given the Dean Karnazes book Ultra Marathon Man that introduced me to the idea of doing an ultra and it really intrigued me. I ran a trail half marathon and, despite taking a hard fall, had a great time. From that point on, I have been drawn to running on trails and pushing myself further and taking on bigger challenges.
A: I have known Donn Cox, one of the co-owners of Gold Country, for several years. We have daughters the same age and he coached the girls’ soccer team for a couple years. Since he opened Gold Country Run + Sport with his business partner Leon Shahinian, Donn recruited me to help lead the Gold Country Racing Team along with another fantastic local runner, Jesse Barragan. The team is all about building a local community that shares a passion for running and racing. The team helps support each other through group runs and sharing training ideas and race results via social media. The store also hosts team events and supports local races.
Q: If someone was going to start competing in ultra running, what would be your first piece of advice?
A: If there is one thing I would do differently, it would be to hire a coach when I first started running long distances. There is so much to learn that hiring a coach would help ease the transition and shorten the learning curve. Most of what I have learned since I started running ultra’s in 2008 has been through trial and error and think I could have progressed much faster with the help of a coach. Another suggestion would be to find runners to run with. In those early years, I didn’t know many runners and spent most of the time running by myself. I have learned a ton from other runners over the last few years as I became more connected with the local community.
Q: The Salmon Falls 50K, which you are running in February, raises money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Your son has type 1 diabetes. What would you tell people who don’t know a lot about diabetes?
A: A lot of people don’t understand the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease that is often diagnosed in children or teenagers. With type 1, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin that is required to regulate blood sugar. Type 1 can’t be prevented and has no cure. Type 1 is an all-encompassing disease that requires those affected to constantly monitor their blood sugar levels and count the carbohydrates of everything they eat.
Q: Is running a family sport?
A: While growing up, basketball was always the family sport. More recently, I have drawn my two older brothers into ultra-running. My brother Aaron, who lives in Fair Oaks, completed the Rio Del Lago 100 miler in 2014.
My kids are still young (7 and 9) and have recently started running instead of being the crew members at my ultra races. We have run the 5k as a family at the Coloma River Run the last two years. The Coloma River Run is a great family event that also supports JDRF.
Q: Not only have you run several 50Ks, 50 milers and 100 milers, but I hear you did much more than just finish the race?
A: The great part about getting a later start at running (ran my first ultra at age 32) is that I feel like I’m still getting faster and becoming a better runner. I have been fortunate to finish at or near the top of several ultra’s including finishing first at the Rio Del Lago 100 miler in 2014 and the Salmon Falls 50k in 2015. I am also really proud of finishing 19th overall at Western States 100 in 2013 and 4th overall at the American River 50 Miler in 2015. I have run the AR50 seven times and 2015 was my fastest time and best finish.
Q: What races are you hoping to tackle in 2016?
A: I have my name in the hat for a couple big 100 milers that have lotteries including Western States and the Hardrock 100 in Colorado. If my name doesn’t get drawn in those lotteries, I will pick another 100 miler as a target race for 2016. I am also planning to return to the Salmon Falls 50k and the Coloma River Run. I also really enjoy running up in Tahoe and Auburn and there are some great local races close to home.