David Fuentes with wife Amber shortly after placing second at the Eugene Marathon.

Elite runner David Fuentes has literally had his share of peaks and valleys.  Competing on the USA Mountain Running Team, he helped USA to win two gold medals (2016-17). And back in 2011, he won a major marathon – the San Antonio Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in 2:28:10. He’s also a three-time Austin Half Marathon champ.

Additionally, he qualified for the 2016 and the 2020 Olympic marathon trials. But he struggled to race a marathon at what he felt was his true potential.  So when the standard was lowered from 2:19:00 to 2:18:00 for 2024, Fuentes had to up his game.

That’s exactly what he did. But it wasn’t easy. Though Fuentes is an extremely talented runner, he felt he often fell short of what he thought he could accomplish in the marathon. So when he passed up defending his 2022 Statesman Capitol 10,000 title to set his sights on the Eugene Marathon, scheduled for April 30, he wanted to get it right.

“I would have put a lot of emotional emphasis in the Cap!0. I needed to just stay focused on my training plan for Eugene,” said Fuentes.

Starting in the shadow of legendary Steve Prefontaine’s’ famed Hayward field, Fuentes approached it methodically, clicking off steady 5:13 miles along the gently rolling course, passing through five miles in 26:21 and 10 in 52:26.

“I grew up on the legacy of Steve Prefontaine. I felt the spirit. It was everywhere,” said Fuentes. “It was cool.”

At around mile 19 in the lead pack, Fuentes began to experience the beginnings of a side stitch. “That was kind of an ‘oh no’ moment,” said Fuentes.

Fortunately, he was able to manage it. He tucked in with the top four runners, regrouped and moved in to second place.

“At 22 miles, I could see the police motorcycle leading the first place runner. I knew then I would OTQ. But I also though I could win this thing,” said Fuentes. “The side stich was gone, so I really started going.”

At that point, Clint McKelvey of Arlington, VA pulled up alongside Fuentes and together they worked together to pass leader Jesse Joseph.

“We hit a downhill and Clint got a few steps on me,” said Fuentes. “I could see the stadium. When we turned into the stadium Clint sprinted, getting about 10 seconds on me.”

Fuentes nearly caught McKelvey at the finish, 2:16:34 to 2:16:43, while Joseph hung on for third in 2:16:48.

Fuentes’ 2024 Olympic marathon qualifier was a nearly four-minute PR. “I really needed to run a fast marathon to call myself a marathoner,” said Fuentes. “I needed to prove something to myself. So many days, weeks, months, and years of putting in the work to achieve what I always knew I was capable of.”

Upcoming races: Saturday, May 13, the Texas Switchback Trail Race– 5K, 10K, 13.1, 26.2 at Flat Creek Crossing Ranch. Marathon starts at 6:00 a.m., Half-Marathon at 7:30 a.m.; 10K at 8:00 a.m.; and 5K at 9:00 a.m. Saturday, May 20, the Front Porch Days Half Marathon/10K/5K/3K/1K at Negley Elementary in Kyle.