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Cabada enters U.S. Half Marathon in Houston

Vida en el Valle

(Published Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 10:17AM)

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CLOVIS — Fernando Cabada is the Rodney Dangerfield in the long distance running world.

Sure, the 2000 Buchanan High School graduate holds the American record in the 25-kilometer run with a time of 1 hour, 14 minutes, 38 seconds. But that was seven years ago in a race that is not commonly raced.

So, what has he done lately?

In 2012, Cabada clocked a personal-best 2:11:53. But that was only good for seventh place at the U.S. Olympic Marathon qualifying meet.

Cabada believes he is on the cusp of breaking through at the U.S. Half-Marathon Championships Sunday (Jan. 19) in Houston. A top three finish there will guarantee he will represent the United States at the world half-marathon championships in Denmark this March.

That is history to learn from, said Cabada after running 800-meter intervals on a stretch of Temperance Avenue.

"My goal is to run well enough to make the world half marathon championships," said Cabada. "My goal, I'd like to say, is to win. I believe I have all the tools necessary to do it, but maybe I'll play it a bit cautiously to make sure I don't totally sacrifice my whole race."

That maturity is what Cabada has been searching for ever since he broke into the long distance running world by clocking 2:12:27 in his marathon debut at the 2006 Fukuoka Marathon in Japan. He was ranked the U.S.'s No. 9 marathon runner.

Now 31 and hitting the prime of his running career, Cabada knows he will have to run a personal best in the half marathon to have a chance. His best is 1:02:32.

"I'll have to run right around 1:02 flat for a half marathon, which is 4:43 a mile," said Cabada.

The field will have some speed, including Meb Keflezighi, who won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and went on to finish fourth at the 2012 London Olympics.

Shadrack Biwott (a Kenyan with a personal best of 1:01:40 half marathon) and Josphat Boit (another Kenyan with a PR of 1:02:32) have recently become U.S. citizens.

Another top contender is Luke Puskedra, who clocked 1:01:36 for fourth place in last year's Houston Half Marathon.

Those runners are not a major worry for Cabada.

"I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life," said Cabada, who recently moved his training from Boulder, Colorado to Big Bear.

"If I was this confident going into the (2012 marathon) trials, I would have had a lot better chance of making the Olympics," said Cabada.

He has been training in Fresno due to the weather. Losing two days or two weeks because Boulder is snowed in is not good, he said.

In Fresno, Cabada has been working on his speed. His Saturday 800-meter times would result in 4:20 mile times, which is "more speed than I'll need."

Cabada is happy to be back in Fresno, even though it still holds memories of growing up poor and going to a school full of students with rich parents.

"I'm older. I just look at everything with fresh eyes," he said. "I've learned to slow down everything and absorb life.

"I always looked at Fresno and all the negatives when I grew up. You can't really run away from everything."

Cabada is pleased with the support he has received from friends and strangers in Fresno. "I can't do this alone," he said.

Houston will not make or break Cabada's running career, but a finish among the top five will open up some eyes, and lead to invitation to prestigious marathons like Rotherdam or London.

"Unfortunately with world class marathons, you have to be real fast for them to invite you," said Cabada. "Right now, I don't have any invitations. It's a tough world out there.

"I want to prove not just to them but to myself that I belong. You constantly have to prove yourself."

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