July 13, 2007

Marathon Man: Hernandez Strives for Olympic Qualifier

By John Philip Wyllie

Despite the fact that he defeated all but 23 of the 17,800 participants in June’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, Chula Vista’s Hector Hernandez was disappointed with his impressive 2:32:35 finish. While many participants consider it a success to even finish the grueling 26.2 mile course, the 35-year old Hernandez had some lofty long-term goals in mind when he raced last month.

“That was my third marathon and I have to say that it was the toughest course. My best time was 2:21:14 (in L.A.’s 2005 Marathon), so I wasn’t very happy with my time here. I usually only run one marathon per year, but this year I am going to make an exception.”

With an eye toward gaining a berth in November’s Olympic Trials in New York Hernandez plans to enter the Chicago Marathon in October.

“My goal in Chicago will be to hit the 2:22 mark which is the “B” standard, but that would punch my entrance ticket to the Olympic qualifiers. If I can break 2:20 that would be the automatic “A” standard and that would be even better. Chicago will be my last chance to get into the Olympic qualifiers for the marathon. My other opportunity would be to reach the Olympic qualifiers in the 10,000 meter run, but that won’t be held until November of 2008.”

To increase his chances, Hernandez is participating in an intensive training program.

“With the next event right around the corner, I only took one week off after the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and then I jumped right into my training. The key element is the long run. You don’t need that much speed on your legs for a marathon, but you do need the long Sunday run.”

On alternating Sundays, you will find Hernandez running the hills and straightaways of the South Bay pushing his body to its limits for nearly three hours at a time.

“It has to be at least two hours and 30 minutes every other week,” according to Hernandez. “The following Sunday, instead of doing a super long run, I just run for an hour and 30 minutes. I do my mile repeats and eight to ten-mile tempo runs during the week. A lot of runners get too involved with speed work. I think the main ingredient is the long run.”

To give himself an extra edge, Hernandez is going to spend twelve weeks running in the mountains near Boulder, Colorado. At 35, he realizes he can’t continue doing this forever, so he is pulling out all the stops and giving it his best shot.

“It’s the perfect time and I am at the perfect age for the marathon. I may not have the speed that I used to have when I ran a 13:50 5K, but my endurance is there and I feel stronger. Any race longer than a 10K fits me well right now. At this point in my life I think the marathon offers me the best opportunity of reaching the Olympic trials. I don’t want to think too much about the 10K right now. First, I want to see how I do in October.”

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