Brian Brown wore a tree of life-type necklace with a lot of meaning during his “Dash for the Cash” in the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K on Saturday.
While he was trying to win the $2,500 prize Sports Backers offers for beating the registered field of more than 25,700, Brown also was running to honor his sister-in-law, Julie Dickson Brown, who died in 2016 after battling cancer.
The necklace was a gift from her son, Aidan, when she was gravely ill.
“Don’t get me wrong. I love winning,” Brown said. “I tried my best. I probably ran the fastest I’ve ever run. So I wanted to win, but it wasn’t at the expense of the bigger idea.”
Brown accomplished both goals. Given about a two-mile head start for the 6.2-mile race, he finished in 28:52, 42 seconds ahead of men’s winner Philo Germano. Dash for the Cash contestants have won 12 times in 14 tries.
Had someone finished ahead of Brown, the money would have been donated to the VCU Massey Cancer Center.
“The first thing I’m going to [do is] write a check to Massey in Julie Dickson Brown’s name,” said Brown, who ran in a Team Massey T-shirt.
Brown, a professor of marketing at VCU, was randomly selected. His advantage on the field was determined by his projected time and past performance and the projected times for some of the top runners.
He didn’t step up his training, although he did change his routine some to include more speed work.
“At first I thought I came out too fast because my pace was much faster than I was really planning,” he said. “I thought my adrenalin was going to get ahead of me. But I felt good. I felt like I was going to have some gas in the tank the last mile, which was my goal.”
Brown said he was laser-focused during his run. He didn’t look back and had no idea what kind of a lead he had on Germano.
“The [escort] sirens were getting a little closer, so I sped up a little bit more,” he said.
Being accompanied most of the way only by the people in the golf cart escorting him felt “surreal,” he said.
“Being out there by yourself and not knowing where I was relative to everybody else, nothing in front of me but an empty Monument Avenue, it was definitely a different experience,” Brown said.
“I will say this: The fans were awesome. Some of them were giving me high-fives. Some of them knew my name. They’d say, ‘You can do it. You’ve got this. Go get the money.’ That made [it] a little fun. I smiled a couple of times out there.”