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MA’s Very Own Running Man

Jon+Bretan+participating+in+a+race+at+Point+Pinole+Regional+Shoreline.
Jon Bretan participating in a race at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline.

Jon Bretan participating in a race at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline.

Jon Bretan participating in a race at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline.

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Jon Bretan stood in front of the entire school three years ago as he described his Tahoe Rim Trail run. I was taken aback by his description of the majestic white mountains of Squaw Valley and his pictures of the breathtaking views from the rim trail. The entire school was mesmerized by the presentation. With his soothing voice, which is perfect for a podcast, Bretan made his race seem much easier than the intolerable pain and exhaustion he probably went through. It was surprising how nonchalant and humble Bretan was while he described this extraordinary feat.

Bretan sat down in front of me three weeks ago, sporting his turquoise running shoes and his beige Miwok 100k fleece vest. Bretan is a physics teacher, cross country coach, and an advisor. He is also a husband, brother, and a father— well, in four months. But when all is stripped away, he is a runner to the core.       

Bretan’s running journey started during his college years when he lived near the trails at Cal. “I started hiking the trails then running them and I realized these trails are pretty awesome. It was my way to get out of the urban environment in Berkeley and get some open space,” Bretan said. He would also bike these trails and in high school, he was a swimmer. So due to his exposure to a myriad of sports, by the end of college Bretan decided to do a triathlon.

“I got hooked on the racing aspect of the triathlon and the training for it more than the rest of the triathlon. So I faded away from the triathlon and started running marathons and longer distances,” Bretan said. With the many different types of running, Bretan focused on trail running. “I like running on trails compared to on roads because your body gets less beat up and tired. Also, the culture and community pulled me into it. Once you do enough of these races you get to know everybody.”

Bretan zipping through the local Marin trails.

Bretan’s passion for trail running and love for the community led him to help others in running by pacing. “Pacing feel as if you are taking care of a giant baby. You have to constantly remind them to drink water and use the bathroom because they forget. At times you just have each other’s company during the night and you make good friends like that,” Bretan said. “My favorite moments are in pacing,” Bretan said as his eyes widen. The friendships formed from pacing expand to include the large running community.

This camaraderie is one of Bretan’s favorite aspects of running. “The community is very supportive. I like the barbecue and the party after just as much as the 50k. It’s fun discussing how we each did during our races and how we can improve.” Even though running can be a self-centered sport, Bretan emphasized that community is a strong part of trail running.

That same community also supports Bretan off the trail. “I got this job at MA because I found out [about a job opening] through Liz. [She] and I used to go to track workouts together and she mentioned the opening,” he said. “One of the bands I play with, I met the singer through group runs and now I live down the street from him and play in a band together.” The large running community offers opportunities for deep and strong bonds to be formed.

Wanting to give back to the running community that had offered him so much, Bretan decided to become a cross country coach. Part of his mission is to instill a sense of teamwork in the runners. “There’s an individual aspect, but it is still a team sport and there is a community,” he said. Sometimes Bretan organizes runs that require the whole team to run together at a comfortable pace in order to instill the importance of community.

As a teacher and cross-country coach, Bretan feels as if the two jobs provide a balance. “It helps me get away and change up what is happening in my brain. Things never get stale,” Bretan said. “When I see students in my class, it is just a small snippet of their day. There is so much more going on their life. Being a coach is a good way to never forget that. When I see runners in the classroom it is nice seeing them in a different environment.”

Bretan teaching about the spectrum of light to his Advanced Physics class.

Whether it is in the classroom or on the trails, running plays a major part of Bretan’s life. His passion for running gives him excitement and joy. It provides him an outlet to channel his emotions. He is also able to keep his life exciting and diverse. Lastly and most importantly, running has provided Bretan a community beyond what he ever expected.  

 

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