Everyone remembers which American crossed the finish line first at the 2014 Boston Marathon. But 3 minutes behind Meb Keflezighi came the second American finisher—Nick Arciniaga of Flagstaff, Ariz.
Arciniaga had a strong race of his own that day, finishing seventh overall. After hearing about Meb’s victory in the finishing chute from pro runner Sara Hall (who was waiting for her husband, Ryan Hall, to come in), Arciniaga stuck around to congratulate Jeffrey Eggleston (who finished just 10 seconds behind him) before leaving the finishing area.
Arciniaga was in a good mood—he was “so pumped” for Meb, but he was also very pleased with how his own race went.
Pleased—but not completely satisfied.
“It was one of the best performances I could’ve done that day,” he says, “but I probably could’ve run faster had I done a little better in training.”
Specifically, Arciniaga points out that at the end of Heartbreak Hill, the last of the stretch of climbing that spans several miles of the course, he was in 15th place. Over the last five miles, he picked off several runners to finish seventh in a time of 2:11:47—just 17 seconds off the PR he set at the 2011 Houston Marathon.
Remembering that, the 31-year-old marathon veteran has tweaked his training slightly in preparation for the 2015 Boston Marathon, bringing down his total mileage a little earlier than past years and incorporating more intense workouts, including additional hill repeats, in its place.
Of course, Boston is a net-downhill course, and it’s most glaring in the first half of the race. But that, Arciniaga says, plays to his strengths.
“The downhills can eat up the legs quite a bit,” he said. “But I love the downhills. They don’t deter me as much as some of my competitors.”
This year’s Boston Marathon is an important one in Arciniaga’s progression as a marathoner. After finishing seventh in Boston last year, the Under Armour-sponsored runner overcame harsh conditions to place 10th at last year’s New York City Marathon in 2:15:38. Combined, they were a huge mental boost for Arciniaga, a sign that consistency is starting to take form in his results. He has five sub-2:12 marathons to his credit, including an eighth-place, 2:11:56 effort at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston.
Another strong finish at Boston this year would further cement that reliability at the distance heading into key races over the next 10 months. He’s hoping to earn a spot on Team USA for this summer’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China. And of course, the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon is next February in Los Angeles.
Just a few weeks away from Boston, Arciniaga said he likes where he’s at. His legs feel like they should, but fresh off a strong 2014, his head is in a better spot than it’s ever been. He’s practiced visualization techniques to keep the positive thoughts racing through his head, and he’s aiming high—“hoping to finish in the top 5 and possibly the top 3.”
That will depend on the behavior of the other top runners come race day. However it decides to go, Arciniaga will be ready.
“I’m hoping,” he says, “I’m in contention by the time the hills start.”