By: Kevin Brandon
Bjorn, thanks for agreeing to speak with us. You’re relatively new to PRTC/Philadelphia and we’re enjoying getting to know you. Could you tell us a bit about how you became a runner? Did a certain event prompt you to take up the sport?
Sure! Thanks to the club for being welcoming and open to everyone: it’s a real privilege to be able to plug in to a club like this, even though I’m only in Philly for a few months. To answer your question: I spent my high school years in little New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, in amish country between Pittsburgh and Erie. I was on the soccer team for many years, but I could only run – couldn’t do anything with the ball. So eventually I figured out that it might be better if I chose a simpler sport.
Once you began running, how did your career develop? Where do you see yourself going from here?
Well, it’s only in the past couple of years that I’ve tried to keep regular, decent mileage. I owe that to the Grinders, the running club that I’m a part of in Tucson. So, when I move back to Arizona next year, I’m looking forward to continuing their 4:30am workouts in the desert!
We essentially have you on loan from the University of Arizona. Can you tell us what exactly you’re up to here in Philadelphia?
I’m a visiting graduate student at Penn, where there’s an excellent classics department and a professor whose work is similar to my own in philosophy. So I’m lucky to be able to spend most of my academic hours each week on (ancient) Greek and my own reading and writing: the classics folks help me with the Greek, and I can consult with my “mentor” on philosophy. But of course there’s much more to life – and Philly has a lot to offer – it’s a good place to live.
Speaking further about academics, this year in general seems as if it’d be an exciting one for you. What are your plans for next semester? How did this all come about?
It will be! I had just finished my coursework at the end of the spring semester in 2016, and I knew that, academically, I’d need to spend a lot of time on research and writing. To get used to this and to give me some new ideas for new writing projects, I thought it would be helpful to visit some other departments. And, of course, there are some other benefits. But my academic plan is to study at UPenn through December and then spend January through June at the University of Cambridge. Hopefully it won’t rain quite every day in the spring.
A quick Google search reveals your academic interests lie in ancient philosophy, moral psychology and the history of ethics. What drew you toward these subjects?
A dissertation has to be focused and narrow, but that goes against my preferences: I’d rather study a decent range of ideas. So, I thought in the history of philosophy, it would be easier to do that – so far, so good. I care a lot about trying to make good life decisions – hence the moral psychology, and hence the Greeks. Besides, I love languages; it’s great to hear so many spoken in Philadelphia!
Running is both a mental and physical sport. Have you ever been able to connect a philosopher or school of thought with running in a way that has helped you perform competitively or maintain training discipline?
Hmm. Running helps me feel more than think, I’d say. So, not really. But Aristotle thinks there’s a difference between doing things and being in a different way while you’re doing things. So tying my shoe is doing something; but I think that when I’m running, I’m being different in a good way. Maybe that makes sense.
I know you’ve lived in a number of different places. As a runner, have you found a particular part of the world best fits your training needs?
Well, last summer I ran almost all my miles on old logging trails in rural Germany. That was a lot of fun – and nice and soft.
Can you share a favorite race or general running memory with us? What is your proudest running accomplishment?
I coached high school track and cross-country for two years in rural Kentucky. We weren’t much good, but we sure had a lot of fun. I’d like to do that again sometime; hopefully, some of those runners will go on to live more active adult lives because of their experiences running.
Early next year you’ll be taking on the London Marathon and you’re currently helping PRTC with various Grand Prix (and we hope XC) races. What sort of goals do you have in mind for these events?
I’m running a 10k and an 8k this fall, I think. I just ran a 10k PR as a split in a ten mile race, though, and so I’m not really sure what I can do. In London, I’d like to run sub-2:35.
Lastly, what else might we like to know about you? Any hidden talents, hobbies or interests?
I spend a lot of time cooking and baking – non-western cuisines, especially – and spending as much time outdoors as possible. I have sort of a non-talent where technology is concerned: most days, I leave my computer and phone at work for the night when I leave in the afternoon. And: if anyone comes to London this spring or Tucson after that, let me know! It’s great to get to know you all!