BU Director of Hockey Operations Brittany Miller Runs for ‘More Than Myself’

Brittany Miller discusses her training for the Boston Marathon on April 12 while sitting in the assistant coach’s office in Agganis Arena. The marathon on Monday will be the first she has ever run. Photo by Gabrielle Turi/BU News Service.

By Rickie Houston 
BU News Service 

Boston University director of hockey operations Brittany Miller sat in her office as she described what will be one of her most difficult challenges to date — the Boston Marathon.

Miller has maintained a presence on campus, earning her bachelor’s in business administration and management from BU in 2015 and her master’s in mass communication in 2016.

Miller also worked as the Terriers’ team manager for five seasons until she was hired as the director of hockey operations in the summer of 2016, becoming the first woman to be hired in a full-time position on an NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey staff.

In addition to her profession, she’s managed to fit in other pursuits, such as her latest decision to participate in the 2018 Boston Marathon. Miller sat down in an interview with BU News Service a few days before the race.

Have you run any long distance races before?
No, nope.

What motivated you to run in the marathon?
I did undergrad and grad school here, and just being a part of Marathon Monday as a student was really exciting. One of my roommates from here actually has run it. This is gonna be her fifth one, and so she’s asked me a couple times like, “Oh, would you be interested in running?” I was kind of like, “I don’t know if I could ever just run.” Then I learned about the Shawn Thornton Foundation [and] that they had a marathon team and I kind of just put a feeler out like, “Hey, would I be able to run?” and they accepted me.

Has anyone in your family ever run before?
A couple of my cousins have run. My uncle ran quite a few times, but no one, not my mom, my dad, my brother or anything. [I’m the] first one in my immediate family.

What do they think about you running? Are they excited?
My mom is a nervous wreck. But they’re excited for me. They’re excited for what I’m running for as well. They think I’m a little crazy. I think I’m a little crazy. Overall, it’s positive sentiment for sure.

How did you prepare for the race?
[I] followed a training plan. Honestly, it was one of the more difficult things I had to do in terms of dealing with our schedule, because if you run with your charity team they do long runs on Saturdays and train at different times during the week. But [with] hockey season, we have games Friday [and] Saturday, so I kind of had to find time separate from training with my team. So I didn’t really have the opportunity to train with my team very much, but I got to train with my friends and just followed a 19-week plan and slowly got the mileage up. Every time it went up I was like, “Oh my god, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it,” but I managed.

What’s one of the most surprising things you discovered while training? Are there any realizations you made about yourself training, physically or mentally?
Just the fact that I had the impression like, “Oh god, this is gonna be tough,” and like, “I can’t run like that,” and then I ended up being able to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doing five-minute miles or anything by any means, but just the fact that mentally I know I should be able to do it is good because it is as much of a mental battle as it is a physical battle.

So you mentioned you ran a 5k before? Do you have any pre-race rituals, lucky charms, anything like that?
No, I don’t think so. Honestly, just stretching. I don’t want to get hurt.

Brittany Miller stares down at her bib number in the afternoon on April 13 from a volunteer at the Boston Marathon expo at the Seaport World Trade Center. Photo by Gabrielle Turi/BU News Service.

Do you listen to music when you run?
It depends. If I’m by myself, absolutely, but if I’m with my friend, not so much, just because it’s honestly super helpful for her to be with me because she’ll just talk to me the whole time. She knows me. I lived with her for two years here, so she knows me well enough [that] when I was like, “Oh god, I think I’m gonna die on this mile,” she would just start talking about random stuff.

She was at the bombing when it happened, so that’s kind of what inspired her to run, and that’s why she runs every year. She wasn’t running the year that it happened, but she was on the sidelines. So obviously the marathon is an emotional day for her. Just being able to share that with her is awesome. We’re going to get our numbers tomorrow and she’s super excited that I’m going to be able to experience the positive side of the marathon with her.

What do you think about when you run?
I try to not think about what I’m doing as much as I can because then, when you focus on it a bit too much, that’s when you’re like, “Oh, I’m getting tired.” Obviously if I’m having a conversation with someone then that helps me focus on that conversation, but if I’m running by myself and I have the music in, I kind of just go into my own world and think about work [and] what I’m going to do next.

Also, I don’t remember who said this to me, but their piece of advice was, “If you think you’re going too slow, you’re probably not going slow enough.” I always try to manage my pacing in that sense. I always try to be knowledgable of that just so I don’t overexert myself.

What do you normally do after a race?
I try to be as disciplined as I can be in terms of stretching, foam rolling and just taking care [and] recovery. I think that also stems from working with this team. I see what our players have to do to stay healthy and I think I honestly learned from them even though they’re younger than me. I take what they do and kind of implement that in myself just so I can stay healthy and rest my legs and just be recovered.

How would you convince someone who’s reluctant to consider running a marathon?
I feel like I’d be able to answer this better once I actually finish on Monday, but for me, I felt like I had to run for something bigger than myself which is why I chose to run for the Shawn Thornton Foundation. He raises money for Parkinson’s and cancer. My grandmother had Parkinson’s and my mom had cancer, so obviously that was a foundation that hit home [on] two very important things to me. I knew that I couldn’t just run to run. I knew I needed to run for something more than myself. I think if you have another motivating factor, I think that makes it more motivating.

Are there any sayings about running or athleticism in general that have stuck with you over the years?
I think it’s kind of one of those things like “practice makes perfect.” You have to buy into it for sure. You can’t just expect to run 20 miles one day. I think [it’s about] just being dedicated and having the mindset to just keep working at it.

An average marathon takes about four to five hours. Is there any other way you would rather spend that time?
Probably watching a hockey game. I can think of a ton of things, like flying on a plane to somewhere tropical [or] sitting on a beach. I’m excited. I think it’s going to be worth it.

What’s the first thing you’re going to do after you finish this race?
Honestly, I told myself — I don’t even like cheeseburgers — and I was like, “I’m going to get a burger and fries when I finish.” But also shower.

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