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Entries in Healthy Doctors (1)


Medical Student and Ultramarathoner: An Interview with Brad Harris

Anyone thinking about a marathon during medical school? This guy eats them for breakfast!

Brad Harris is a 3rd, soon-to-be, 4th year medical student at Loma Linda University. When he is not rocking the wards he's probably in the mountains, pushing his lactate threshold to the limit.

Tell me about your last race?

My last race was the Old Goat 50 miler on March 24. It was a trail race on 75% singletrack trails in the beautiful coastal Santa Ana Mountains. It was a tough course with 13,000 feet of climbing. Ninety-five percent of the course was either going up or down. The physical side of running an ultra race proved to be much easier to train for than the mental side. At some points in the race all I wanted to do was stop and stretch, just so I could have a good excuse to stop running. By the end it became a battle to find motivation to finish. Overall, it was great experience and a good challenge mentally. I finished with a smile on my face.

What did you feel like after finishing a first 50 mile run?

HUNGRY! I subscribe to the theory that your body tells you what it needs through cravings so that meant that I ate nachos, chili, pancakes, gatorade, chocolate milk, salty potato chips, and grilled cheese all within the first 10 hours after the race. And it was all guilt-free eating. Of course, crossing the finish line was a lifelong goal for me and brought a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, but stuffing my face sure brought a lot of satisfaction as well.

When did you get into running?

My high school biology teacher got me into long distance running in 9th grade. I have since transitioned to more trail running. After moving to Southern California for medical school, I found the local mountain trails lots of fun to play in. Running has become a way of life now.

Ok, I know you like pain, was that what inspired you do pursue medicine?

One of the biggest reasons I first decided to go into medicine was to give back to my community. I've been very fortunate to get medical help when I've needed it most. I've been shown compassion and experienced how it feels to receive it. I look forward to being able to this on to others both locally and globally. Another thing that appealed to me about medicine was the opportunity to be a part of a community that constantly strives for excellence and works to improve peoples' quality of life. In addition, I really enjoy the mental stimulation that medicine provides. It's a challenging career that will always be evolving, changing, and making you think. As I started medical school, I became very interested in wilderness medicine and specifically high altitude medicine. I love the mountains so its a pretty natural fit for me. I look forward to incorporating as much medicine as I can into the things I love to do in the outdoors and giving back to the community.

One of my favorite quotes kind of says it all...

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.

- Albert Pike

What types of races have you done in medical school?

While in medical school, I've done 2 big races (2010 Boston Marathon & 2012 Old Goat 50 miler), a few smaller races, and am constantly coming up with entertaining endurance challenges with friends on the weekends to challenge ourselves. My goal throughout med school has been to get out into the wilderness at least once a week to run, rock climb, or backcountry ski. Its a great way to clear the mind and a good motivation to be efficient with studying.

How do you keep up with medical school and have time to train at such a high level?

I try to maintain a focused yet flexible training schedule with a lot of variation, but some times school doesn't comply with my training schedule. Check out my guest post on Endurance Training During Medical Training.

Has your running life opened any doors in you medical career?

I've made great friends and met all kinds of interesting people that are in the medical field at races and while out training, but the most direct way that running has opened doors is that it provides an easy icebreaker to start up conversations with residents, attendings, and patients on a day-to-day basis. Its fun for me to find out what other people like about running and create a common bond. I've found that the shoes that people wear in the hospital tend to be a great conversation starter.

So what’s next for your running career?

My most important goals are to continue to stay healthy, push myself, and meet fun, interesting people through running. In addition to these goals, I keep a google doc chocked full of future adventures. It's a dynamic list that helps keep me focused and  keeps me dreaming. I highly recommend this type of adventure list to anybody that enjoys the outdoors.

A few running adventures on my short list for the next couple years include:

  1. 100 mile trail race,
  2. Running up Mt. Whitney,
  3. Running the West Coast Trail in BC Canada
  4. Running the Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon.

How has staying connected to this passion helped you in medical school?

The biggest way running has helped me in medical school is it has allowed a time for me to clear my head and remember that life is much bigger than the current landry list of stressors I may be facing in my life.

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