By Jay Wallace
I have known this year’s men’s runner of the year for about a year and a half of Saturday morning races. In that short time, a few things have become apparent. He has an infectious enthusiasm for the sport, a fierce competitive spirit, a good sense of humor, and an ability to quickly develop friendships. He is gracious and quick to recognize the accomplishments of others, often cheering the loudest at post-race awards ceremonies.
His training bears mention because it puts me to shame. In order to fit weekday runs into a busy schedule, he is often out running with his dog…. not at 6, not at 5, but 4 in the morning with lamps on his waist and head to light his way on trails near his house. He does 20 milers on non-race Saturdays even in the middle of the summer. When outdoor running is not feasible, he makes use of treadmills including one he broke because the thing wouldn’t go faster than 6 minute miles.
I don’t know much about his speed work, but it must be intense because he possesses an uncanny ability to finish a race stronger than anyone around him. This has become a distinct race strategy that he employs with great skill and consistency. I call it “DRAFT and DUST”. He will key off a person or group of people of similar ability level, run right off their shoulder most of the race, and then surge past them with a half mile or less to go. This surge is not so much a high knee sprinting “kick” but rather the same stride he has run the rest of the race, only in fast-forward. It sounds simple, but it is easier said than done. The list of victims is becoming rather lengthy. I can’t list them all and stay within my time limit, but anyone with a nodding head or knowing smile is likely among this group. My name would appear there 3 times, which is partly why I’m standing here right now.
For those who haven’t already figured it out, you will know Mike Martinez as that guy who was always picking up the Master’s (or overall) prizes at points races last year. What makes his points crown particularly remarkable is the dramatic improvement it represents. His 5K has dropped from the mid – 18’s in 2005 when he was training for triathlons to 17:13 and it would have easily been under 17 if he ran more fall 5Ks. His 10K dropped from 37:14 in April to 34:40 in November (two and a half minutes!). Throw in a 4:53 mile in his first Breakfast at the Track and a 2:53 in his second marathon ever and you have a clean sweep of great races across all major distances. The Grand Prix points competition became a battle for second place.
I will close with some words of advice for the 20-something recent college graduates: stay sharp with your speed work, because this Masters runner may be looking for new targets. Mike Martinez, congratulations on a great year and best wishes for many more.