Athlete Feature 18 - Jon Brown

Athlete Feature 18 – Jon Brown


This week we had the pleasure of speaking to three time Olympian Jon Brown. The former British 10,000m record holder attended Iowa State from 1989-1992 and was an NCAA 5000m Indoor Champion in 1992. Brown went on to win the European Cross Country Championship in 1996 and was also fourth in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic marathons. He was inducted into the Iowa State Hall of Fame in 2006. Jon’s Powerof10 profile can be found here.

tbUSA – Was it always your intention to go to the US for university? Did you consider turning professional early or going to university in the UK?

JB – I was 18 when I went to the US so turning “professional” wasn’t on the radar then. I thought about university in the UK, but at the time I just wanted out of the UK and to have a bit of an adventure.  I looked at the racing opportunities college runners have in the US compared to the UK; the US option was vastly superior.

tbUSA – Some of the best runners in the NCAA during your time there happened to be teammates; John Nuttall, Gary Lough, Jonah Koech to name a few. Was this one of the major reasons why you chose Iowa State?

JB – Yes, when I went to Iowa State John Nuttall had just had a breakthrough year after a miserable first 3 years through injury; also there were 4 other Brits on the track team at the time. The transition to living in the US helped with the other Brits around; no way I would have gone to Iowa otherwise. I’m sure the Brits who followed after me like Gary, Steve Brooks and Steve Green each saw it the same way. US culture, especially in the mid-west felt pretty alien to me, so having people who shared the same humour, values made life a lot easier to handle.

tbUSA – What degree did you obtain at Iowa Sate? Have you made use of it at all since graduating?

JB – My major was Political Science but I didn’t complete the degree. Barcelona Olympic qualification started looking like a realistic option so I made the decision to drop out of school and head back to the UK to try and make the team. I don’t regret it the decision although it did weigh heavily on me at the time.

Jon Brown in Olympic action

tbUSA – Iowa State were hugely successful as a team during your time, winning numerous Conference titles and also a National Championship.  What were your thoughts on having to be committed to a team versus the almost entirely individual nature of the professional side?

JB – For any team to succeed it needs strong individual performances. We helped each other in training and motivated each other to do the work, but essentially we all focussed on our own individual performances and especially beating each other! It was understood that for the conference indoor/outdoor meets that everyone pulls their weight and earns as many points as they can manage. I just used the conference meets as big training days doing multiple events, running myself ragged for a weekend. No big drama.

tbUSA – After several near misses you picked up an NCAA title over 5000m indoors in 1992. Was this the most memorable moment of your collegiate career?

JB – Yes. It was a very good field and a bit of a breakthrough; people can recognize you as a very good athlete, but until you actually win something being a good athlete doesn’t really count for much.

tbUSA – Your collegiate years were an early part to what turned out to be a long and very successful athletic career. To what extent did your experiences in college prepare you to make the transition onto the senior international stage?

JB – Before I went to college in the US I recognized that between the junior level and senior level there is a significant gap to bridge. The training and competition opportunities needed to bridge the gap weren’t available in the UK at the time, maybe they still aren’t.  As a first year senior I ran 13:35 and 28:38; there’s just no way I could have progressed to that level training by myself in Sheffield racing BMC and British League events.


tbUSA – During your college track days racing over 5000m and 10,000m, was it in your mind that  long term you would eventually be moving to focus on the marathon?

JB – Yes, I always knew eventually that was where I’d end up.

tbUSA – How would you rate your overall US college experience?  What was your most memorable highlight at Iowa State?

JB – Overall I’d say it was a positive experience and it was the best option available to me at the time. It wasn’t an easy ride; we were dirt broke most of the time, living in hovels like most students everywhere do. Most memorable for me were the friends I made there and the travelling we did together to races all across the US.


tbUSA – Whilst the recruiting procedures may have seen changes since you graduated with the use of the internet, the basic premise of athletes receiving scholarships remain the same. What advice would you offer to athletes who are currently considering the US collegiate system?

JB – Research your options very thoroughly; now with the internet there is no excuses if you make a poor school choice. Location, facilities, climate, coaching staff, current and past athletes, academics, athlete services, cost of living, cost of travel – all these should be taken into account when deciding on a school.

Our favourite Jon Brown video.

Comments are closed.