Elite Athlete Spotlight – Nick Arciniaga
Most accounting graduates move on from the classroom to the
land of cubicles and corporate offices to count the beans, but after
Nick Arciniaga graduated from Cal-State Fullerton in 2006, he quickly
realized that was not the life he was called to lead. Today, Arciniaga
works in a professional field where shorts are part of the uniform, naps
are encouraged and running twice a day is the norm.
|Â© Mike Scott
Arciniaga is a professional runner for the McMillan Elite team
based in Flagstaff, Ariz. However, when Arciniaga first graduated from
college, he knew he wanted to continue running, but he did not have the
times on his resume to go pro. While he considered himself a miler and
middle-distance runner through high school and college, he decided to
try his hand at the marathon, and made his debut at the ING Chicago
Marathon in 2006. Not only did he surprise everyone else, but also
himself with a time of 2:16:58.
“It was a surprise and a shock to have done so well,” Arciniaga
said. “I was thrilled to find an avenue that allowed me to continue my
With his Chicago performance good enough to earn him the
Olympic Trials ‘A’ Standard, Arciniaga trained for the trials for the
2008 Olympics, and entered the race blissfully unaware of the talent he
was facing. “I was ignorant to the rest of the field, I thought if I had
my best day I could make the team, and I really went in to it over my
head.” Arciniaga admits. While his 17th place finish didn’t qualify him
for the Olympics, it whetted his appetite for more.
Since 2007, Arciniaga has lowered his marathon PR by more than
five and a half minutes, or 13 seconds a mile over the 26.2 mile
distance. His best race came earlier this year at the Chevron Houston
Marathon, where he was tasked to run as a pacer for his teammate Brett
Gotcher. Arciniaga was tasked with running 4:53 splits through 25 km
(approximately 15.5 miles). Coach Greg McMillan had agreed that
Arciniaga could continue to run if he felt good at that point, but
stipulated that he could only finish if he was going to run a PR.
After completing his 25 km pacing task and with the pressure to
hit the exact splits lifted off his shoulders, Arciniaga began to drop
back from Gotcher. But after a few miles, he began to pick up the pace,
and not only caught Gotcher, but passed him. Running the splits through
his head, and calculating the pace, Arciniaga began to realize he was in
position to run a PR. As he moved up to a surprising third place, he
caught a cheering section off-guard as they began to chant, “Brett!
Brett! Brett!” While Arciniaga admits
that the cheers caused him to laugh, he reveled in surprising the crowds
and continued to pick up the pace. He crossed the line in second place
knocking 18 seconds off his previous best setting a new PR (2:11:30).
This time around, Arciniaga is looking forward to the 2012
Olympic Team Trials for the Marathon with a better understanding and
appreciation for the event and the athletes he will be competing
“This time I know the competition, and I know myself. If things
pan out right, I can make the team if I have my day, but I know where I
belong, and that is in the top five or six guys. “
Arciniaga knows that he doesn’t have the same clout as the Ryan
Hall’s and Dathan Ritzenhein’s of American marathoning, but it is a
role that he thrives in. Arciniaga admits, “I prefer to be the underdog.
I know that I am not less talented than the top guys, I’m just taking
longer to develop.”
This weekend, Arciniaga will look to add a USA Championship
title to his resume at the USA 25 km Championships hosted by the Fifth
Third River Bank Run. At last year’s edition of the race, he finished
third in 1:15:18, and this year he will battle defending champion Andrew
Carlson for the win.
“I want to repeat my performance in the top three, but
obviously I want to go for the win,” Arciniaga said. “I know it will be a
competitive field, but I want to be able to control the entire race.”
To watch Arciniaga, and the rest of the USA 25 km Championship field, tune in to the live webcast at www.USARunningCircuit.com at 7:00 a.m. CT.
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