Brian’s Run Still Here After 36 years


WEST CHESTER, PA--The inaugural Brian’s Run, held 36 years ago, was meant to be a one-time event. Back in 1978, high school football player Brian Bratcher suffered a head-on collision, which paralyzed him for life.

Bratcher’s hometown of West Chester, PA, wanted to help defray the cost of Bratcher’s medical treatment; therefore members of the community staged a one-time 10K with the hope that one-hundred people would show up. Their goal was to raise $500.00. However, 2,000 runners showed up and the race committee raised $20,000.00.

Bratcher was so moved with the huge outpouring of love and support that he requested for the race to take place every year with the purpose of helping other people in need. “I felt that I shouldn’t be the sole beneficiary,” said Bratcher.

Now 36 years later, Brian’s Run is still a West Chester institution. The race evolved into a big road race, with prize money that attracted elite runners.

Five years ago, Brian’s Run went from a 10K to a 5-mile race. The race used to start and end at West Chester University, but the cost of hosting the race there became so high that the race committee moved its start and finish line to Bratcher’s alma mater: West Chester B. Reed Henderson High School. In the process, the race committee reduced the distance to five miles.

“I took over [as Race Director] from Dan Holland five years ago,” said John Manion, who still holds that position today. “He [Dan] and his people were getting ready to shut down the run [Brian’s Run]. Me and a few of my runner buddies have propped it up and given it a new lease on life.” Manion hopes the race continues, but keeping it going has been a challenge. “With mud runs and color runs and rock-and-roll runs all competing against each other, it makes it hard for a tough little five miler to hold its own, but we will see.”

“Thank God that John picked it up and decided to run with it,” said Bratcher. “It’s been an institution, but there was a chance of it [Brian’s Run] going under.”

Brian’s Run is still a big community event.

This past December 1 at the 36th running of Brian’s Run, Kenyan-born Bernard Mwangi, 22, won by two seconds at 24:07, edging out 30-year-old Julius Mbugua, 27:09.

“I felt good; it was a good race,” said Mwangi in broken English. This is his first year racing in the United States. Winning Brian’s Run earned him $500.00.

In the women’s field, Alice Kamunya, 22, won with a 26:44 clocking while Pauline Muchiri, 24, finished second, 27:13.

Both Kamunya and Mwangi train in New York under the management of Paul Mbugua.

“I ran this race before,” said Mbugua. “It’s a good race; that’s why I brought them here.”

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1. Bernard Mwangi 24:07
2. Julius Mbugua 24:09
3. Andrew Weaver 24:45
4. Griff Graves 24:56
5. Isaac Bryan 26:15


1. Alice Kamunya 26:44
2. Pauline Muchiri 27:13
3. Grace Kahura 28:32
4. Patricia Heppelmann 31:30
5. Marcie Heil 31:33