By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2017 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
CHICAGO (06-Oct) — Diego Estrada came here last year to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon with high hopes. The 2012 Olympian for Mexico, who now represents the United States, had dropped out of the 2016 USA Olympic Trials in both the 10,000m and the marathon, and the marathon here represented a big chance for redemption.
But at the 10-kilometer fluid station, disaster struck. Estrada crumpled to the pavement with searing pain in his right Achilles and ankle. He was in shock. What just happened?
“One of the bottles fell off and I was too focused on getting my bottle, being my second marathon,” Estrada told Race Results Weekly. “But I stepped on a water bottle. I just rolled the ankle, and the back of my Achilles just pulled.”
His first thought was to abandon the race. He had so much bad fortune last year, maybe this was the time to not only close his season, but call it a career.
“With it being the Olympic year and all of the emotions I put into it, it was more like a huge emotional release where I just screamed when I touched the ground,” Estrada recalled. “I hit the ground and screamed and I just thought this is the end of the line. I’m done. I’m over this sport.”
But Estrada quickly thought about all of the work he had put in, and then considered the absurdity of the situation. If he didn’t finish, he would have to make a third try at the marathon distance just to finish a first one. That was unacceptable; he simply had to continue.
“I guess, the glass just broke,” he said, referring to the torrent of emotions he was trying to process. “I got everything out, and after that I just didn’t care. I guess I was just truly free the last 20 miles, no pressure no expectations, just wanting to finish the race.”
Estrada got up, and continued. He bargained with himself, doing everything he could to just keep moving forward as his ankle swelled to the size of a baseball.
“I had in my mind it wasn’t going to swell, it wasn’t going to be bad,” he recounted, thinking about his coach, Joe Vigil. He continued: “I had already dropped out at the Olympic Trials in the marathon and 10-K with Achilles issues/hamstring issues and my back, so he’s going to think mentally I’m not there. I just finished because I didn’t think he would believe me. I think it would become more of a mental game out there, not one hundred percent committed to hurting anymore.”
He suffered, but he finished. Remarkably, he made it to the finish line in Grant Park in eighth place in a respectable 2:13:56. He was a marathoner, despite leaving the finish area on crutches.
Fast forward one year, and Estrada is optimistic. His training has gone well, and he could easily slash his personal best and put himself in position to contend for the 2020 USA Olympic Team. He can’t be a 2:13 guy and get to Tokyo.
“This week I was thinking it would be awesome to rip a PR out here, and just kind of prove that I do have the potential that I can be a good marathoner,” he said. “Two-thirteen fifty-something is a decent time, but it’s 2017. I feel like I have to be a sub-2:10 guy to have the confidence to have my name out there heading into 2020. “In training we’ve done a lot of amazing workouts. We’ve been very cautious not to overdo it. But, I know that, alone, I can run 21 miles at goal pace. The rest we’ll just have to see. Hopefully, it’s a good enough race that I can get under 2:10.”