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Finally Having Fun: Brent Vaughn Finds New Perspective as a Pro

Vaughn will compete at Janus Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver, which doubles as the USATF Colorado State Half Marathon Championships

A few months ago, former University of Colorado standout Brent Vaughn was facing the crisis of a lifetime. After years of struggling to make it as a professional in a sport not known for its million-dollar athletes, Vaughn, a married father of two and a 62-minute half marathoner had decided to pursue his dream: working in the roofing business in his hometown of Aurora, Colo., with a friend of his.

But Vaughn’s business partner was anything but that. “He robbed me for a significant amount of money,” Vaughn recalls. “He was also gambling away customers’ money.”

With failing finances and a sagging reputation in the community, Vaughn followed a valuable lesson he’s learned throughout the years as an elite runner: he picked himself up and gave it another go; he persevered. The 30-year-old severed ties with his partner and began anew in May, forming Faraday Construction with some of his friends that he’s had since first grade. “We’ve been trying to go back and take care of some of the customers who were robbed,” Vaughn says. “We built their roofs and bailed them out.”

Surprisingly, despite all the stresses, setbacks and the 70-hour workweeks, Vaughn, who was the U.S. cross-country champion three years ago, has been able to continue elite-level training throughout this personal crisis, though he admits he has little time to keep track of the details of exactly what he does on the roads and tracks.

He’s currently coached by former world-record holder in the marathon, Steve Jones, and feels that “Jonesy’s” keep-it-simple approach to training is perfect for him at this point in his career.

“I run twice a day when I can and do whatever Jonesy tells me to do on a daily basis,” Vaughn says. “I don’t wear a watch. Jonesy blows the whistle, and I run hard and then he blows the whistle to tell me when to stop. I just run hard. I don’t even know how many reps I am doing.”

Vaughn says Jones has been working on the mental aspects of his training as well.

“It’s helping a lot,” he admits. “I was pretty laid back in college, but when I turned pro, I was always stressing about finances. I am now at a point where I’m not trying to just crush people in races and workouts. Back when I was racing, if someone passed me, I would say, ‘there goes $1,000’. That kind of running didn’t fit me. It was impossible to run well if I was counting dollar signs. Now I just run to run, which is really what it is meant for.”

Training even at this “old school” level of simplicity while fitting in everything else has been a challenge for Vaughn.

“It’s really hard to balance it all,” Vaughn admits. “Running was a full-time job for me, and now it’s two full-time jobs and family. It’s very difficult.”

Vaughn contends that running is still a priority for him and says he’s in “OK” shape right now. “I’m good enough,” he says. “I’m having a lot of fun with running. I’m not stressed out about the financial aspect anymore. I don’t have to go race to pay rent or cover grocery bills. But I don’t want to give it up. I think I can still be competitive.”

This weekend, Vaughn will be toeing the line at the Janus Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver Half Marathon. Following the recent cancellation of the Boulder Marathon, the race plays host to the USATF Colorado Association State Half Marathon Championships.

The 2014 State Championships will feature $6,500 in prize money plus time bonuses dedicated to half-marathon athletes. With a 62:04 personal best for that distance, Vaughn is the top-seeded runner. But he faces stiff competition from the likes of Andy Wacker, a two-time All American at the University of Colorado, and Benjamin Zywicki who boasts a 65-minute half-marathon personal best.

Vaughn doesn’t have a specific goal in mind for Sunday’s race other than to build on his fitness for the upcoming New York City Marathon on Nov. 2. At the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston two years ago, Vaughn dropped out. He has yet to clock an official time for the marathon distance.

“I plan on just racing,” Vaughn says of this weekend’s event. He has a mantra for it: “no time, no place, no watch.”

He hopes to apply this same mantra in New York next month

“Jonesy is a big believer that the marathon is not a time trial or a pace run; it’s a race,” he says. “If I can just race the marathon, then I’ll be pleased with the result.”