For Army 1st Lt. Dan Browne, running in Sunday's 15th Army Ten-Miler is not just an adventure--it's his job.
Browne, 24, is the most prominent member of the Army's World Class Athletes Program, a cadre of Colorado-based runners who train, race and represent the Army full-time. For Browne, the two-time defending Army Ten-Miler champion, and his teammates, Sunday's race will be anything but a lark along the Potomac.
"I told him he's running for the flag, God and country," said race director Paul Banta.
Nearly 6,000 military personnel from around the world will be among the record field of 16,362 runners in Sunday's 10-miler, which is once again the largest in the country.
At the head of the pack will be Browne, his WCAP teammates and members of Washington's answer to the Army program, the Reebok Enclave.
Browne last visited the Washington area in the spring, when he won the Pike's Peek 10K in Rockville. He ran 28 minutes 35 seconds and earned $20,000. Awards at Sunday's race are more along the lines of medals, ribbons and plastic men astride marble bases.
"That was a nice paycheck race," Browne said of Pike's Peek. "Actually, it's the only race I've won all year. But I'm happy to come in this weekend, because it's the Army's showcase race. There's a lot of pride on the line."
Since joining WCAP in 1997, a year after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Browne has won national titles in cross-country, track and road racing. Last June, he finished third at 5,000 meters in the U.S. track championships and competed at the world championships in Seville, Spain. (He didn't qualify for the final.)
"I'm very happy to be in the WCAP program," Browne said. "But I'll be honest: Road races are not the most important thing for me right now. I'm most excited about preparing for 2000 [the Olympic Games]."
Browne is fighting his reputation for being too easily drawn toward the short-term glory--and relatively easy money--of road racing, to the detriment of his track talent. Browne's range of speed, however, may suggest a future at the longer road racing distances. "I'd like to make a natural progression toward that," he said. "The marathon might come after 2004."
Last weekend in Bowling Green, Ky., Browne tried to defend his national 10K road racing title but was unsuccessful, finishing sixth.
"Some people might say this has been a downer year for me," he said. "But I've had [personal-best performances] at every distance from 1,500 meters to 10K, except at 5,000 meters.
"At this point, I'm a bit tired and just trying to hold on. After [Sunday], I'm going to take a couple of weeks off to recharge, and then start getting ready for next year."
Browne knows, however, that he can't afford to look past his competition Sunday. Many of the best military runners plan their fall racing season around this event. Even his teammates, including Shawn Found, who beat Browne last week at Bowling Green, will aim to dethrone their poster boy.
But Browne's toughest competition will come from the Enclave. Arlington's Andre Williams, who was second at Bowling Green; Peter Sherry, a close second to Browne at Pike's Peek, and 2:13:02 marathoner Terrence Mahon would like nothing better than to steal the military's thunder. Last year, the Enclave soundly defeated Army and won the team title.
Still, Browne may have the greatest incentive.
"This race kicks off the annual Association of U.S. Army meeting," Banta said. "The winners are introduced on stage Monday to some 5,000 members of the Army leadership. That's pretty good exposure for a first lieutenant."
CAPTION: Army 1st Lt. Dan Browne is two-time defending champion in Sunday's 15th Army Ten-Miler. Field is a record 16,362.