Brandon McBride sets Canadian record in 800 metres

Canada's Brandon McBride races in a Men's 800m first round heat during the World Athletics Championships in London. (Alastair Grant/AP)

Brandon McBride was searching for answers after having his string of three consecutive 800-metre titles broken at the Canadian track and field championships, so he had a long talk with his coach Kurt Downes to try to figure out what was going wrong.

Less than two weeks later, McBride exploded to a Canadian record — and he says he can go even faster.

The 24-year-old native of Windsor, Ont., beat Gary Reed’s 10-year-old 800-metre mark on Friday at the Monaco Diamond League meet, running to a silver medal in a time of one minute 43.20 seconds.

The result is a huge boost in what has been a trying year for McBride, who parted ways with longtime coach Chris Scarrow and felt like he was off his game due to nagging injuries.

"This year has been a huge transition, from switching coaches, to being injured, to losing my first national title, I think ever," McBride told The Canadian Press in a phone interview from Monaco. "I don’t think I ever lost a national title at the senior level. i think I was 3-for-3. So it was a kick to the ego a little bit and I felt like I was off, and now I feel like everything is coming together."

McBride finished just under a second behind race winner Nijel Amos of Botswana (1:42.14). Saul Ordonez of Spain was third in 1:43.65.

Known for his explosive finishes, McBride was in third heading into the final 100 metres before kicking into high gear down the final stretch.

"I felt great, the best I’ve ever felt in my life," McBride said. "What’s crazy is I think I had more left. I got cut off so I had to sit a little bit and I wasn’t right with the leader, but I think if I was right in that second position the entire time I would have run a little bit faster, and that’s what’s so exciting."

His feeling Friday was in stark contrast to two weekends ago in Ottawa, when he was upset in his bid for a fourth Canadian 800 title by up-and-coming runner Marco Arop.

"I was not happy with myself even though it was tactical, it was slow through the first lap, I wasn’t happy with how my body responded the last 100 metres," McBride said.

"I went back to my coach and he has all the faith in me, and he just put the pieces back together," McBride said. "We sat down and had a long talk and we got it right this weekend."

McBride’s resurgence sets up an intriguing rematch with Arop at the next month’s NACAC championships in Toronto. The track and field showdown for athletes from North American, Central America and the Caribbean will take place in a high-profile event at Varsity Stadium being dubbed "Track and Field in the 6ix."

The Toronto event could be a second chapter in a budding but friendly rivalry between McBride and 19-year-old Arop, who was born in Khartoum, Sudan but calls Edmonton home.

"Marco Arop ran a phenomenal race and he was the better man on that day (at the Canadian championships)," McBride said. "He’s an up-and-coming talent and I think he has a lot left in him and he’s going to have a long career. He actually is going to the same school that I graduated from (Mississippi State) and they’ve done a great job developing his strength and his speed is even better.

"I’m looking forward to there being two Canadians at NACAC. Two Canadians that are the real thing and are going to contend for a medal."

McBride, a two-time NCAA champ in the 800 metres, and Arop are the first stars for Canada in the distance since Reed, who set the record back in 2008 with a time of 1:43.69. And he set it on the same Monaco track, something that did not escape McBride’s notice.

"I thought that was very interesting," McBride said. "Monaco is the best distance meet there is. I mean everybody knows about Monaco, and everyone knows people come here to run fast."

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