Reid Buchanan committed to distance running later than most. Growing up, he always played football, basketball and baseball, too. He ran and found success in high school. He earned a spot running on the University of Kansas squad. But he’s also given up running before.
Now, Buchanan is in Lima, Peru, representing the U.S. at the 2019 Pan American Games, where he will compete in the 10,000-meter race Friday.
Running has providied for Buchanan’s traveling experiences. He’s been all across the U.S., Europe, Trinidad and now Peru as a result. But it’s also been a journey about growing up and accepting that success isn’t always linear.
“I’ve been more grateful for this opportunity that I have been given. I have been less harsh on the self-criticism,” Buchanan said. “I feel like when I was younger if I didn’t get the external validations of results I wanted or I thought others expected of me, I was pretty hard on myself. To an extent I’m still like that, but I’m definitely a lot better.”
Buchanan is accepting of the results now, but he still has the ultimate goal. He’s shooting for a gold medal in Lima and wants to do that for his country. But the former Manhattan High runner already has come a long way.
“A lot of distance runners, they don’t have the same background as far as what he was doing in multiple sports. I remember seeing him at Memorial Stadium trying to improve his vertical by himself. No matter what he was doing, whether it was football, basketball or baseball, he was going to be as good as he could be,” said Manhattan High cross country and track and field coach Kory Cool, who tutored Buchanan before he graduated in 2011. “Sometimes you don’t get the same kind of rewards in team sports like you do in distance running. There is a lot more in the hands of the team and the other coaches and officials. But I think in distance running you put out what you put into it.”
Buchanan, who recently signed with On Running, already has plenty to show for his young career. He struggled in his three years at Kansas, saying he just wasn’t that good. So he stopped running for a year. It was only when University of Portland coach Rob Conner called that his career sparked again. Buchanan wound up becoming a first team All-American in cross country and in the 10,000-meter outdoor track championships, where he placed fifth. He also was a second team All-American in the 3,000 meters at the indoor track championships.
Buchanan said he realized “getting out what you put into it” isn’t directly about medals, but about the kind of life he’s been able to live. When he’s not traveling internationally, Buchanan is bouncing back and forth between Mammoth, Calif., and San Diego.
“Being in San Diego, I train a lot at sea level, so I get to go to the ocean on a weekday because I have the time to do that,” Buchanan said. “I think that’s probably the thing that makes me feel the most lucky and grateful. All I have to do is train and a lot of other people don’t get that opportunity.”
Setting has been important for Buchanan’s development, but so have the people he’s surrounded himself with. Andrew Kastor is Buchanan’s coach at Mammoth Track Club. His wife, Deena, won the bronze medal in the 2004 Olympic marathon and is an American record holder in the marathon and half-marathon. He even has a fellow “Manhattanite” in Lima with him because Phil Vardiman, a professor at Kansas State, volunteered to work with the athletes on the medical staff.
Buchanan also talked about how highly he thinks of Desiree Linden, who won the Boston Marathon in 2018.
“(Linden) went 15 years without having that external validation, but it finally came when she stopped expecting it from herself,” he said. “I think that big moment happens, whether its winning a medal with the team or winning a major marathon, I think I’ll be indifferent. No matter what happens, I think I’ll be able to look back and be happy with what I’ve been able to do.”
This week, Buchanan is hanging around in the athletes’ village in Lima, preparing to compete in a brand-new stadium. But he still sees more for himself, on a bigger stage. Buchanan wants to be an Olympian, and will try to clinch a spot next summer.
“Now he’s racing the best athletes in the world, so I’m glad he doesn’t get so wrapped up in winning all the time,” Kool said. “That would always be Olympics medals, and I know his goal is to make the Olympic team. Now he’s in Peru with ‘USA’ on his chest, so it seems like he’s on his way.”
Cool said he and the city of Manhattan are proud of what Buchanan has done and is doing. Cool already thinks highly of him on a large scale, naming his former runner alongside some of the other Kansas greats like Jim Ryan. The idea of Buchanan being an legendary runner in the state isn’t too far fetched, either. He ran a 13:27 in the 5,000 meters and a 27:58 in the 10,000 meters on the track. Both of those marks would make him the fastest Kansas-born runner ever, Cool said.
“He’s had a really progressive career in running,” Cool said. “He kind of started later than anybody else would and he’s still just getting better every year. Once he does move up to the marathon, I think he will be one of the fastest American-born marathoners. Say it’s next year or two or three years from now, if he can get in that 2:10 to 2:12 range, he has the possibility to make the Olympic team at that event.”
Buchanan said he knows what he’s getting to do — wearing the Team USA jersey — isn’t normal. At 26, he’s still got years ahead of him in his professional career to keep wearing it.
“I am very glad he decided to commit himself to distance running,” Cool said. “I think at this point you could argue that he’s one of the best to ever do it in the state.”