"I just kept running and holding on to that dream, and it came to me," Boris Berian said

By Tiare Dunlap
March 21, 2016 02:25 PM
Christian Petersen/Getty

In two years, Boris Berian went from working at McDonald’s to becoming a global star in track and field.

On Saturday, the 23-year-old won a gold medal in the 800-meter race at the IAAF world indoor championships in Portland, Oregon. Berian built a 10-meter lead during the first quarter mile of the race and finished in 1:45.83, according to Runner’s World.

“It was simple. Just take the lead right away and then hang on,” Berian told reporters afterward the race, according to the Denver Post. “That’s how I feel most comfortable racing, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.”

Berian won $40,000 for his victory on Saturday – a sum that would have been unfathomable to him just two years ago, when he was earning $8 an hour as a fry cook at McDonald’s and sleeping on friends’ couches.

After dropping out of Adams State University in his native Colorado, Berian stayed with friends and found time to train after shifts flipping burgers, according to the Portland Tribune.

“I was just staying positive and hoping this dream would happen on my own,” he said.

Later that year, he was asked to join the Big Bear Track Club in Big Bear, California where he benefitted from more focused and structured training. He won his first national title at the USATF Championships in Eugene, Oregon, last week, which was quickly followed by his victory in Portland.

Now, Berian will set his sights on qualifying in the Olympic Trials in July in the hopes of making it to the summer games in Rio.

“A year ago I was just a normal guy and now I’m U.S. champion, one of the top 800 runners in the world,” he told Runner’s World. “It’s crazy.”

As for other athletes following unconventional paths, his advice is simple: “Just don’t let go of your dreams,” he told the The Portland Tribune. “I just kept running and holding on to that dream, and it came to me.”