Interview with Ann Marie Brooks
By Parker Morse

Ann Marie Brooks competes at the 2003 USA Cross Country Championships.
(Photo: Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)

Since we last talked with Ann Marie Brooks, she's had a stress fracture, graduated from the University of Missouri, moved to Boulder, and married miler Clay Schwabe (not necessarily in that order). Most interesting from a running point of view, she picked up her first national team spot with a third-place finish in the 4k at the USA Cross Country Championships. She also ran 11th in the 8k the day before. We talked with Brooks as she scraped off some of the Houston mud. That race moved around a lot, with a lot of places changing at different times. When did you start feeling like you had a place on the team?
Ann Marie Brooks: From the gun. I was just assuming I was going to be in the top six. I've never raced against all these girls in the same race before. Two nights ago I was reading the start list, and I was little intimidated, but Clay was like, 'You never read the start list. Stop.' So I just stopped and put it down. I found out yesterday that if I had a doubt for a second, and they got even an inch on me, I would lose them. It's impossible to speed up in the mud. It drags you down. It's almost like swimming, like you're fighting against yourself. I was sore in weird places from the mud.

FW: What did yesterday take out of you?
AMB: I'm sore along my shoulders. Normally you'd think would be in your legs, but I think the mud took the impact pretty good, and my shoulders are sore just from fighting against it. As far as fatigue, I wasn't tired, just a little sore in funny places. I think I gained experience from running in the mud the first time. I learned the course, and I had my own path for every single part of the course. On that hill over there, [points] everyone was staying to the right or the middle, I was on the left, because I knew from yesterday, doing it four times, that was the best way to do it.

FW: How was the course different today?
AMB: It was a little more clumpy. Yesterday it was just like there was a waterfall of mud going down my legs. Today it was like clumps. They had to be big clumps because at times it was like people's elbows. It felt like there were competitors behind me but really it was just mud clods. I could tell from my shoes, there were more big clumps of mud sticking to them.

FW: We see you've got the tree-climbing spikes on.
AMB: I could go up a telephone pole with the best of them.

FW: What kind of goals did you have for the 8k?
AMB: Well, I came in saying, I wouldn't be too disappointed with top 15. I thought that was a reasonable and good finish. But I was really disappointed that I wasn't in the top ten, and pretty disappointed that I wasn't in the top six. Today it just blows my mind. I can't even believe it.

FW: Did you come in planning to do the double?
AMB: Back in Boulder everyone was asking me, 'Are you going to run both?' and I was saying, 'I don't know, that sounds like a lot.' They said, 'You should, you should.' I was only entered in the 8k before I got here. I wasn't going to do the 4k, but I was talking to Clay, back at home in Colorado, on the phone, and he said, 'You go down and pay the $15.' I had twenty minutes before six o'clock when they closed the entries. He said, 'Go down, fill out the form and pay the money, and if you don't have enough, tell them your husband's going to be here and he'll pay the rest.' So I went down and entered. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't even be here.

FW: So how does this change your plans for the spring?
AMB: Not that much, because I didn't really have that kind of plans for the spring. Now I have plans, so I guess I have things on my schedule now. I was in the mindset to come here and do the best that I could, and I'd just go from there. So, this is where I'm going from, I guess. I was thinking about going to Mt. SAC and Drake, the same kind of meets I did in college. But I don't even know what the weekends are. I'm kind of disorganized about that -- not disorganized, but I don't like to think about it until later.

FW: Who are you training with in Boulder?
AMB: Arturo Barrios is my coach, and I'm training with the Army's World Class Athlete Program. So it's like ten or eleven Army guys and me. On easy days I run with them, but on hard workout days, I'm by myself, or with anyone who's sick or injured, or Arturo because he's 40. So that's my group.

FW: That group has done pretty well this weekend.
AMB: Yes, Sandu got in, the Army team as a whole was third overall, I think, which was a pretty good finish. Today we've got four WCAP guys in the race, I think they're going to do well too.

FW: Sandu told us Arturo has been training you specifically for cross country.
AMB: Yeah, we don't really have a track that we can run on in Boulder, so we just have this grass field, called Kitt Field. We run around that a bunch of times. We don't really know how far it is, so we do it for time. So coming in to this, I could not compare it to anything I've ever done. One, it was all at altitude, and two, it's not like I could say how fast I've been doing 400s in, because we don't do 'em. We just kinda run around a grass field.

FW: This is your best cross country finish in any nationals, isn't it?
AMB: Yeah. Last year [fall 2001] at NCAAs I was 29th, but at the time I was running on a stress fracture. I didn't know about it until later, but I think it was pretty good to do 29th on a broken foot. But this is definitely better.

(Interview conducted February 16, 2003)

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