Dan Browne, running coach on the US Pentathlon Coaching Staff, is an Olympian who attended the 2004 Olympic Games for the 10,000 meters and the Marathon. Starting from a young age, he has always been an athlete. “It’s kind of a mindset thing. From a young age I was pretty serious about being the best I could be. I remember that my Dad exposed me to many sports growing up and one particular thing we always did was an Easter “fun run”. It was a mile race and for about 4 years I won the age group category. That experience of some early success gave me a sense of my talent for running. Ultimately, I really enjoyed the feeling while I ran, which started a cycle of reinforcement… that combined with some successes further cemented my desire to explore my potential.” But his young Easter Fun Runs were only the beginning of his journey as an athlete.
Throughout high school, Dan played many sports including soccer, track, basketball, and cross country. Though he was a great runner, that wasn’t always the sport on his mind. “I really wanted to play in the NBA at a young age, so I devoted myself to becoming a great basketball player. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, but at the point when basketball and soccer started to fade away, I saw greater and greater success at Cross Country and Track, which became my new focus.” Dan recognized what he was best at and focused on it, even though it meant giving up on his first dream. “When one door closes something new begins,” says Dan.
Continuing on his path as an athlete, Browne attended the United States Military Academy at West Point to keep improving and advancing his running skills. Through his many years and experiences there, his highlight “was qualifying for the 1996 Olympic Track & Field Trials in the 5,000 meters” in his third year there. His run-in with the Olympics didn’t stop there. “After West Point, I continued training at an elite level with the Army’s World Class Athlete Program before joining the Nike Oregon Project and qualifying for the 2004 Olympic Games in the 10,000 meters and Marathon.”
His coaching career began in 2013 when he ran the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), which works to train top-ranked soldier athletes for the Olympic and Paralympic games. Alongside training, these athletes are serving their country in the military. Dan was in charge of the Track and Field team through 2016, before he moved on to coach Pentathlon Multisport in 2017. “At the time, my family and I had moved to the Colorado Springs area and while working with the World Class Athlete Program, I got an opportunity to be a National Team coach for the sport.” This switch was made because he wanted “to help reinvigorate the running level of their athletes.”
Throughout his experiences as a coach, he has met and trained many athletes, but there was one who stood out in particular for her dedication and focus, Viktoria Ahaus. At the National Championships in 2019, Dan first met her father, Stefan, before he recognized the abilities that Viktoria possessed. Dan “decided to make an investment in her development,” and “just this past year she’s risen through the National rankings and recently finished 2nd at the US National Championships in Roswell, NM.” Being a young athlete, this was a massive accomplishment that shows the bright future she will have in the sport. Dan, inspired by her achievement, “look[s] forward to continuing to help her climb the international ranks.”
Dan has learned a lot through his experiences as a coach; “Coaching is an interesting thing. There’s an art and science to it. One lesson I’ve learned is to spend some time making sure that there is an alignment of training philosophy between the coach and athlete before heading down the trail.” He believes that athletes and coaches must have some parallel thoughts on how to train for the athlete to reach their goals.
Furthermore, Dan believes that a strong Pentathlete needs mental strength. “All training begins there. Without that component, it is hard to get to the top.” Training for five different disciplines under one event takes a lot of time, effort, and dedication, but with mental strength, an individual could survive and thrive through the challenges they face.
For those athletes just starting out, it’s important to have support and people to help guide you along the way. “I would share with the young athlete to first self-assess where you want to be and where you are, then surround yourself with the most successful and passionate people that can help you meet your goals.” Anyone can be a Pentathlete, and according to coach Dan Browne, mental toughness is one key to success.