Mizuno Racing Team’s Daniel Tapia To Tackle World Champs Marathon on August 17th
When Daniel Tapia stands on the starting line of the World Championships Marathon on August 17th, he’ll have a brief moment to reflect on how far he’s come.
A year ago, he was just another runner, struggling to get in his training while working days at his family’s restaurant and going to law school at night. Tapia had won a couple of marathons in California—Big Sur and Cal International—but had never quite made the breakthrough on a national stage.
That came in April in Boston where Tapia improved his PR by more than a minute and finished ninth (second American) in 2:14:30.
While his time wasn’t all that remarkable, the 26-year-old was named as an alternate to the World Champs team. When Mo Trafeh was injured and pulled out of Moscow in July, Tapia was named to the team as his replacement just four weeks before the marathon.
Already deep into his training for the Amsterdam Marathon (October 20), the Team Mizuno marathoner leaped at the chance to be on his first USA national team and make his first overseas trip. Right after taking the California Bar, Tapia moved up to Colorado Springs from his home in Castroville, California and began pounding out 140-mile weeks in anticipation of Moscow.
“I was shocked when I got selected,” said Tapia from the US Olympic Training Center where he was putting the finishing touches on his prep for the Worlds. “That’s one of the things about the marathon—you just never know. But the one thing we all know is takes a lot of hard work.”
Nobody knows that better than Daniel Tapia.
His parents own three restaurants—Norma’s Family Restaurant (American casual, great pancakes)—in the Salinas area of Central California. His parents and his three brothers and sister have always worked in one of the restaurants that are named after his mother. It didn’t matter if Tapia was in college–at the University of California—Santa Cruz or Monterey College of Law—he was there for six or seven hours each and every day. Before work, he ran and after work, took night classes at law school. Some days he got in a second run at night after law school.
Says Tapia’s father, also Daniel: “Being restaurateurs has helped knit our family and enables us to spend more time together. We wanted a place our children could go after school and help out and teach them how to work. My wife’s father taught her the value of working, my father taught me the value of working and we wanted our children to learn this aspect of life.”
Evidently, the five Tapia children learned that life lesson pretty well.
“It was never easy for us,” says Tapia, “but this is who I am. It was never a hardship. My parents are my backbone. Whenever I needed help, they were there for me. Whenever they need help, I’m always there for them.”
Without the stress of studying for the California Bar Exam, Tapia plunged into an abbreviated training schedule for Moscow, going as high as 140 miles per week. “It’s been amazing. I’m running twice a day, getting ready for the Worlds and Amsterdam, but that’s all I’m doing. No work, no school. I have so much time on my hands I didn’t know what to do with it all. So I started doing cross training—which I’ve never done—and I’m even getting physical therapy treatments even though I’m not injured. At first, having all this free time was awkward, but I’ve adjusted.”
Tapia is realistic about his chances in Moscow. Conditions will undoubtedly be warm and though it’s a flat course, he isn’t looking for a PR. “My goal is to run a smart race,” he says, “and hopefully place well. I hope it is hot there because I run well in lousy conditions. But my real focus is on Amsterdam in October. If I recover well from Moscow, I think I can improve by a minute or two and run in the 2:12 range.”
Now training under renowned coach Scott Simmons of the American Distance Project, Tapia has upped his mileage and has seen immediate improvement. “Scott has really helped me get used to handling longer workouts,” says Tapia. “I’m doing more 20-milers and learning how to handle five-minute pace better. Just being able to concentrate on running has been a big change for me. Now, I can recover completely from workouts as well as eat and hydrate better because I have that extra time that I just never had.”
Tapia better enjoy it now because if he passes the bar (he finds out in November), he wants to go into criminal law or civil litigation—just not immediately. “Right now, my focus is on running. I’ll have plenty of time for my legal career. I’m just starting as a runner and don’t want to have any regrets. I haven’t touched my speed yet. With the type of training I’m doing now and with more experience in the marathon, I can be so much better.
“”I’m prepared to work as hard as I can in the next two years and make the Olympic Team.”
Hard work doesn’t scare this marathoner.