We’ll Miss You Ron

May 4th, 2008 was a sad day for anyone who closely follows the 110 hurdles. On his blog website, American hurdler Ron Bramlett announced that he will no longer be running professionally due to stress fractures in both shins. Bramlett, a two-time NCAA champion who has been running professionally for six years, has been plagued with shin problems for the past year and a half, and the pain finally got to be too much.

I for one will miss Bramlett immensely, as he is truly one of the good guys of the sport. You’ll never hear Bramlett’s name associated with the use of steroids, HGH, EPO, or any other performance-enhancing drugs. A true student of the event, Bramlett became a great hurdler by tirelessly studying film. On his blog website, he has also contributed greatly to the education of many aspiring hurdlers. Bramlett has not only uploaded race footage, but he also uploaded many practice sessions of himself running out of the blocks alongside the likes of Allen Johnson. I know that, as a coach, I find the practice videos to be even more valuable than race footage. That Ron made such videos available to the public speaks volumes to the kind of guy he is.

On his blog, Ron discusses the pain that his shins have caused him – how he felt in some races like his legs were going to break in mid-stride. To some degree his story serves as a cautionary story for any hurdler who feels chronic shin pain. Most hurdlers assume that shin splints come with the territory – if you’re gonna run hurdles, you’re gonna have shin pain. That’s true to a degree, but understanding when shin splints are moving into the range of stress fracture is important. Basically, the pain of a stress fracture is different – the pain is more acute at a specific spot, whereas the pain of shin splints goes up and down the lower leg. So if the pain is in a specific spot that is tender to the touch, you most likely have a stress fracture, and the sooner you get it diagnosed and begin to take time off, the better.

I emailed Ron after reading his announcement, and he emailed me back. Here are some of the things he had to say that I felt were worth sharing with those who visit this website:

On Running Professionally
I think its important that guys take the time to realize the fleeting glory of sports and that there are very few athletes that can “retire” after running track. The rest of us are going to have to make a living in another profession. Most of the guys that contact me about running pro think there’s huge money out there, and although there is good money, it’s not enough to sit on and grow old off of. They should be concerned about getting through school and being sure to network and have people in place to make things smoother when its time to hang up the spikes. When you’re in athlete, you have to consider these things. You are making money with your body, and you can only do that for a very short time. I worry about some of my fellow athletes on the circuit who didn’t finish school, or are blowing their money, or living beyond what they might be able to maintain once track life is over. It’s a reality that a lot of athletes want to be blind to.

On His Shin Pains
It was tough to have the shin issue begin only about a month after running a PR indoors. (Bramlett won USA Indoors in 2007 with a 7.47). I felt like things were starting to click.. My rhythm and angles were finally right, and I was looking forward to my best outdoor season ever.. but then the shins started giving me trouble. It was ironic that I finally figured out how to run fast, but never had the chance to do it outdoors, because the shins wouldn’t allow me to train. And now I’m not even running at all. A lot can happen in a year!

On Technology and How It has Affected the Hurdles
I honestly think the internet and technology has had the biggest impact on the event. Guys have access to so much film online. There are so many resources on the event available at your fingertips and now athletes can watch film on just about anyone. Back when I was in school, there was no streaming video online, and very little film available anywhere else. You had to hunt it down from another coach or happen to stumble upon VHS tapes, or call around and see who had what.. Now, all you have to do is “google” it, and it’s right there. Having that ability helps guys learn and develop much much faster.

When people ask me why the event is evolving, that’s what I credit it to. Hurdlers are much more educated now. They have access to so much material. I get email from high school athletes asking me about tips and drills. When I was in high school, I couldn’t even name the world record holder! I didn’t know because there was no internet, and no other track material around. I didn’t even know what Track and Field News was until I got to college! Not now. The info is there for anyone who wants to find it. And that’s what’s making the difference, if you ask me. That’s why I upload the races and workouts. I want people to learn without having to do it the hard way.

© 2008 Steve McGill

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