Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
The fastest girl in U.S. history won’t have her name in the record books just yet.
On May 19, Brynn Brown, a junior at Guyer High School in Denton, Texas, ran 9:39.67 for 3200 meters, eight seconds faster than Katelyn Tuohy’s national high school record. Only Mary Cain’s 9:38.68 two-mile from 2013 ranks higher in equivalent performances across the two-mile, 3K and 3200 meters for high school girls.
Snagging the [Unofficial] Record
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Brown ran the time on her home track with the help of a few college-aged male pacers instead of at a prestigious post-season invitational against her peers. She didn’t use FAT timing as Leo Daschbach and a group of elite prep milers recently did to chase a sub-four mile, so her impressive mark won’t count for any official record-keeping. But the milestone represents the strength it took to persevere through a year filled with the disappointment of injury.
“For a little while, I was in disbelief because it was so sudden,” she says of the track season’s cancellation. “I had my grieving, my pity party for a little while. And then I was like, ‘well, I’m a junior. I still have one more year.’ And I looked at all the silver linings: I’m not in school, I have a lot of time to rest and recuperate between training sessions. So I got amped up for a really good training block to take advantage of the time I had.”
The idea of going after Tuohy’s national record was a last-minute one once Brown and her coach realized New Balance Nationals probably wouldn’t take place this year.
“[As the meet became] kind of uncertain, we didn’t know if we wanted to train for this anymore if it’s not 110% going to happen,” she says. “So [my coach] said, ‘let’s do a time trial to see where we’re at and call it and have some closure to the season.’”
Comeback Season Interrupted
This spring was supposed to be Brown’s comeback season after she lost most of the fall to an injury.
In just her second year of running last spring, Brown won two state titles in the 3200m and 1600m at the Texas State Championships, then clocked an eye-opening 9:57.54 two-mile at the Brooks PR Invitational—after falling right after the gun and forcing a recall of the start.
“It kind of hit me there,” Brown said of Brooks PR, “you could do something on a national level.”
She ramped up her summer training in anticipation of a big junior year fall. But an injury hindered those plans. Though she still managed to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals in December, where she placed 23rd, she missed the Texas state cross country meet and most of the fall season.
“The hardest thing was trying to get over the fact that my entire junior year was taken away due to injury,” she says. “Not having a track season made me really upset for awhile. The silver lining was being able to get in really good training without school and all the extra stress I have during the school year, especially with finals and AP tests… Rest is super important. That’s one silver lining and key lesson I learned during this time.”
Quarantined at home with her parents, 13-year-old sister (“she’s into basketball”) and seven-year-old brother (“he’s into taekwondo”), Brown embraced the time to catch up on sleep — sometimes as much as 10 hours a night — and experiment with her new favorite hobby, cooking and baking and chronicling her exploits on a foodie instagram page, @intuitioninthekitchen.
While she did workouts by herself, she says she met up with Matthew Morgan, a Guyer alum who now runs for the University of North Texas, and Kyle Johnson, an alum who currently competes for the Texas A&M track team, for easy runs and long runs during the week. Morgan and Johnson are the runners seen in the time trial video pacing Brown to her 9:39.
“The first mile felt so relaxed,” she says. “Matthew in front of me looked so relaxed because the pace was probably pretty pedestrian for him. I didn’t know how fast we were going; I was just trying to follow along and not fall off pace. The second mile, the lactic acid definitely hit and it was not easy.”
After a quick 4:48 opening mile, Brown was able to hold on in the second mile, closing in just over 4:50 to sneak under 9:40.
“Even though not anyone was watching, there’s a moment of self-satisfaction when it all pays off on the day,” Brown says. “Nothing can beat that feeling.”
Brynn Brown’s Typical Week of Training
Monday – “Strength day,” time-based intervals like mile or 1K repeats
Tuesday – Easy day
Wednesday – Threshold workout/tempo run
Thursday – Track workout, “short and fast” like ladders
Friday – Easy day
Saturday – Long run up to 13 miles
Sunday – Off
Total Mileage: 65 miles per week at highest point
Tempo run “zones”: Tempo runs will be about 20 minutes at the beginning of the season, around a 400-meter loop on campus or a 600-meter loop at South Lakes Park divided into 200-meter “zones.” Each week, runners will add a minute or decrease goal pace per zone to get progressively faster in a controlled setting. “We got up to about 5 miles, 5:10 was the fastest [pace] and that was right around 26 to 27 minutes.”
2 weeks before time trial: 4 x Mile @ 4:52, 4:55, 4:55, 4:57 with 2:30 rest; “race simulation to get the pace in my legs” on half grass, half concrete course (video via MileSplit)
Week before time trial: 6 x 600 meters cutting down from 1:45 to 1:39 with 2 minutes rest
Brown’s favorite workouts are 10-mile tempo runs. Some LetsRun message board commenters picked up on the fact that she averaged 5:52 pace for a 15-miler, but she said she took a wrong turn that day and doesn’t usually hammer that hard for long runs.
“I don’t do it every weekend because that’s a pretty taxing workout and I don’t want to overtrain,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll do a progression run and start out at a pretty easy pace and work down in the last final third of the run. Sometimes I definitely get to hammer it. I love long runs, so I get really excited when I get the green light to do that but not every weekend.”
Rest, Moderation and Unfinished Business
The former soccer player knows her tendency to overtrain may have something to do with her injury history, and getting the proper rest and recovery is as important to her right now as tracking summer mileage in preparation for a big cross country season.
“I don’t know if I’m going to increase [mileage] too much because  is already pretty high on the spectrum for high schoolers,” she says. “I think for me, this year, I’m going to focus on the little things like recovery and sleep. Focus on saving a lot for the collegiate experience and improving there. I’ve replayed how I could have done better so many times in my head, trying to find the things I could or should have done. I supplement a lot of miles with cross training and I’m not scared to take a day off if I need to. I work with a dietician now and make sleep a priority, so doing all the little things.”
With a 9:39 on her resume, a national title in cross country certainly looks within sight — especially as a runner who enjoys racing longer distances. But first, Brown is focused on making it to her state meet.
“I have yet to win a state title in cross country so I want to get that first,” she says. “I definitely have some big goals going into cross country, but first and foremost, stay healthy for sure.
“And getting the official national record.”