July 7, 2020
Duane Solomon, the four-time US champion, third-fastest American ever at 800, and 4th placer in the greatest 800m ever run (the 2012 Olympic final) was a guest on the LetsRun.com Track Talk podcast last week after he retired from the sport.
Solomon joined us from Arizona, where he is finishing up courses at a law enforcement academy so he can become a corrections officer.
Solomon shared some very interesting insight into his career, including how he struggled to get established as a pro and had to quit his job at Abercrombie & Fitch to run the 2012 Olympic Trials, where he had his big breakthrough.
We’ll get to some of those highlights below, but the biggest news to come out of our talk with Duane was his very bullish comments on Donavan Brazier, the current world champion and American record holder at 800.
Solomon, who briefly trained with Brazier under former AR holder Johnny Gray, has no doubts that Brazier’s future includes a world record at 800. Solomon is so optimistic Brazier will break the world record that he’s actually most interested in seeing if Brazier can also be a great miler.
“I kind of want to see what he can do in the mile and 1500…because I know eventually he’s going to break the world record in 800. I would love to see what this guy can do at the higher distances, to see if you can kind of be one of those dual athletes who can go and win a 800 and a 15 if the the schedule permits,” Solomon said. (listen to Solomon’s comments on Brazier here [95:43]).
When Solomon was pressed that he was casually assuming Brazier would break the world record, he didn’t back down in his assessment. “That’s a given [he breaks the world record]. If you see how this guy’s been racing and how comfortable he looks, it’s almost like he looks as easy as how Caster Semenya looks when she’s running 800. It looks like she’s holding back and only giving you just enough.”
After Solomon’s comments, track fans got a taste of Brazier’s 1500 potential last week, as the 23-year-old ran a personal best of 3:35.85 at the Big Friendly in Portland — and made it look easy.
Solomon on Going All-In at 2012 Olympic Trials: “What Do They See in Me That I Don’t See in Myself?”
Solomon will always be linked to the 2012 Olympic final, in which Solomon finished 4th, David Rudisha set the world record, and every athlete but one set a personal best.
“At the end of that race, I don’t think anyone was really disappointed because of what happened…that was everyone’s best day…So even on our best day we couldn’t beat this guy, so you know you have to take it for what it is and know that you know we were racing greatness that day. There’s no man on Earth that would beat him on that day, even on their best day,” Solomon said. (listen to this clip here [67:02])
But that wasn’t the most important race of Solomon’s career. His biggest breakthrough and life-changing race came at the 2012 Olympic Trials where Solomon went sub-1:45 for the first time to make the Olympic team. In his next race in Monaco he ran 1:43, and that set him up for his 1:42.82 lifetime best at the Olympics.
Solomon had made the 2007 World Champs while in college at USC but had been a mid-level pro for most of his career struggling to make ends meet. He knew the 2012 Olympic Trials might be his last shot at the big time.
“My first contract I signed was [worth] no more than $20,000 [a year]. I had to work a part-time job as well as run, so that was very rough, trying to manage the time to work and even to get off of work to go to the Trials. A couple weeks before the  Trials, I quit my job. I was working at Abercrombie…They weren’t going to let me off that long, so I said you know, what? I quit. This is more important. And the rest is history after that.”
Solomon made the team and had a huge emotional reaction on the track afterwards. When asked about it he said, “I think it was just all of the pressure that I had on myself and everyone else had on me. In the call room [before the race] I have guys that I looked up to who were like ‘You’re going to make this team.’ I had [Bernard] Lagat actually come up to me before I went in the tent and he was like, ‘I know you’re gonna make this team. I know you’re going to make this team. I believe in you.’ I even had LaShawn Merritt come up to me and tell me ‘You’ve got this man, I know you’re going to make this team.’ So I have all these guys I look up to here in my corner and I’m saying [to myself], ‘What do they see in me that I don’t see him myself?'” (listen to this clip here [83:42])
Solomon made the team, became part of history at the Olympics, and said he hit every bonus in his contract causing his base salary to increase sixfold.
Full Talk with Duane
The”LetsRun.com Track Talk Podcast” with Duane is in the player below and on your favorite podcast app. Duane joins the show at [51:39]. Click on timestamps above if you only want to listen to certain parts. He talks more about his career, how he got hooked up with coach Johnny Gray, what athlete he liked racing the least and more.