Personal Best: Running a full-time life

Anna Bretan thrives on running the distance, which is why the 2006 USF graduate, wife, mother, nurse and two-time All-West Coast Conference cross-country star enrolled at San Francisco State in the spring.

She instantly became the Gators’ top women’s track and cross-country runner while studying holistic health and pursuing a second undergraduate degree.

“I love distance running, the mile and on.” Bretan said. “I am naturally competitive, so I love racing. I love the runner’s high, I find it really relaxing. It’s my outlet.”

An outlet is essential in Bretan’s busy life. The Novato native balances her full-time school schedule and part-time work schedule with a full-time mothering schedule. The 23-year-old and her husband, John Mullen, met as nursing students at USF. Mullen is an emergency-room nurse at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. Bretan works in the labor-delivery and mother-baby units at St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco. A flat near Golden Gate Park is home to the couple and their two boys, 2½-year-old Mason and
1-year-old Preston.

Bretan earned Division II All-America honors this spring for the Gators in her first collegiate season running track. She finished third at nationals, running the 5,000 meters in 16 minutes, 56 seconds. Bretan’s goal is to finish her last season of collegiate eligibility as a cross-country All-American. In the first meet of the fall season, the USF Invitational on Aug. 30 in Golden Gate Park, Bretan finished fifth in a field of 99. Last weekend at the University of Portland Invitational, Bretan led the Gators to a third-place finish in a meet with 11 schools represented. Bretan finished fourth in the 6-kilometer race with a time of 23:00.67.

Bretan feels that she is a stronger, more consistent performer than she was during her USF days. She attributes her success to the coaching philosophy at S.F. State.

“Coach [Tom] Lyons has an incredible training plan,” Bretan said. “His training approach is based on pace; we don’t go out there and run as fast as we can … we run a consistent pace.”

Lyons is effusive as he describes Bretan’s role on the team.

“Anna’s presence has enabled the other women to raise their own expectations” he said. “Our team is better, naturally, with Anna out front. She is supportive of her teammates and has added a tremendous amount to our team. The team now knows what it takes to be an All-American, to be a champion.”

Last dance

How Anna Bretan has fared in her final season of eligibility at San Francisco State:

USF Invitational Fifth 18:13.50

Portland Invitational Fourth 23:00.67

Remaining meets

Saturday, Stanford Invitational

Oct. 10, S.F. State Invitational

Oct. 25, CCAA championships (San Bernardino)

Nov. 8, NCAA Far West Regional (La Jolla)

Nov. 22, NCAA championships (Slippery Rock, Pa.)

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