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Brenda Martinez Making Strides On And Off The Track

The American and world championships medalist hopes to make some noise at the Carlsbad 5000.

The American and world championships medalist hopes to make some noise at the Carlsbad 5000.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Every runner has them and that includes the thousands taking to the streets on Sunday for the Carlsbad 5000.

That even goes for elite athletes like Brenda Martinez.

She was the first American female to hit the Carlsbad 5K tape last year in 15:44. That’s good for Martinez and good for those hoping that Uncle Sam’s running contingent will continue to make strides.

“It will be a lot better for me this time around,” predicted Martinez, who made her Carlsbad 5K debut in 2013. “I have a better feel for it.”

Martinez, a three-time All-American at the University of California, Riverside, is getting comfortable in the 5K after making her mark at shorter distances, which include the mile. And’s let not forget her bronze medal at 800 meters in last year’s IAAF World Championships.

“I knew I was capable of it,” Martinez said of mounting the podium in Moscow. “It was good for me to experience something like that and it is something I will never forget.”

Martinez, 26, also remembers what it was like to be a kid. She was one that found her direction through running, starting as a 5-year-old, and oddly enough, as a sprinter.

But she quickly learned by the time she hit her gallop the race was done. She gravitated to the distance events and hasn’t looked back.

Martinez, though, is touching the future as well.

That circles back to her wrestling with decisions, with these coming off the track. The mantle of being a role model hangs easily on Martinez. She embraces having athletic girls glancing their eyes toward her with that knowledge that through sports might also come a better life.

RELATED: Martinez’s Favorite Things

Martinez started a running camp for five youngsters last year, taking them under her wing — or is it feet? Martinez’s heart is now challenged by picking through the applications of those wanting to absorb her guidance. She plans on doubling the class this year.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

“I wanted to give back more and I decided the way to do that was to reach out to these young girls,” said Martinez, who lives and trains in Big Bear, Calif.

So for three days she conducted her running camp for teenagers from Riverside and San Bernardino. It focused on running, but there were life lessons distributed, too.

Martinez did so before departing for the world championships, which meant she was circling the Russian track for herself and those adoring pupils back home.

The result? A personal best of 1:57.91 as she became the first American woman to earn a medal in that event.

“I do get motivated by them,” Martinez said, “because they look up to me.”

Martinez sees herself in the reflection of their eager eyes. They’re learning what Martinez knows and she’s ecstatic about passing it along.

“I put it in their heads that whatever they want in life they can definitely have,” Martinez said. “And you can get it through athletics.”

Every athlete knows the sense of accomplishment when goals are reached. How hard work is rewarded, and that is something that transcends any running venue.

RELATED: Martinez Wins Runner Of The Year Award

What makes these girls special, Martinez added, is they’re not all top-shelf runners. A few are, a few aren’t, and it matters none.

“I keep in contact with some of the girls and mentor them,” Martinez said. “I’m trying to give them confidence and to let them know they can have a good life.”

Martinez has done just fine, thank you, but it wasn’t always easy.

After leaving UC Riverside, she had trouble latching on with a running development team. She bounced around while stiff-arming doubters, many who didn’t account for a foot injury compromising her senior season.

But she stayed the course, found a coach in Joe Vigil, and with the backing of her husband, Carlos Handler, she has a support group that matches her determination.

“I do want to move up in distance and the ultimate plan for me is to be versatile and have the strength to run the 5K,” she said. “And I think the 5K is going to help my 800 time go down, and as well as the 1500.”

And the Carlsbad 5K couldn’t be more appealing as she’s aiming to break the 15:40 barrier.

“It’s a fast course,” she said. “I like the fact it is a paper clip [design] and I’ve run it enough to know what to expect, how to take the turns.”

This year could be Martinez’s turn to shine. No doubt she’s got some young fans in her camp.

RELATED: 5 Questions With Martinez


About The Author:

Contact Jay Paris at Follow him on Twitter at @jparis_sports.