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Matt Llano Has Big Goals, Starting With Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego

The 26-year-old already has a solid PR in the half marathon.

At this weekend’s Suja San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon all eyes will surely be on Meb Keflezighi, who will be competing. But toeing the line with Meb will be one runner who could very well succeed the 40-year-old Keflezighi when he retires: Matt Llano.

The 26-year-old Llano owns an impressive 1:01:47 half-marathon personal best, which is a little over two minutes shy of Ryan Hall’s American record (59:43). He says he’s entered into the San Diego race at a good time in his training cycle—about seven weeks after his marathon in Los Angeles in March where he set a new PR (2:16:12).

“I feel like doing a half marathon right now in my training helps build on the momentum—all the strength I’ve gained—from the marathon training I’ve put in,” he says. “This race will be a good test for my fitness and let me see how well I have been able to rebound after the marathon.”

Llano currently trains with the Hoka One One Northern Arizona Elite team under the watchful eye of coach Ben Rosario. Though his 2:16 marathon is nothing to be ashamed of, the former University of Richmond standout feels that he can run much faster in the future.

“I technically improved my marathon time in Los Angeles, but I really feel like I’m a 2:09 or a 2:10 guy,” he admits. “With my 61-minute half-marathon PR, I should be running around that time. It’s just a matter of time as I build strength and continue to grind through tough marathon workouts. The marathon time doesn’t come overnight. It takes years to build that base.”

Years is what Llano talks in. He’s as driven as they come and clearly knows what he wants to set out and accomplish. His near-term goal is to make the U.S. Olympic marathon squad by finishing in the top three next February at the Trials in Los Angeles. From there, Llano has set his sights on Ryan Hall’s half-marathon record.

“I don’t feel like I’m quite there yet,” he says about breaking an hour for 13.1 miles. “That’s more of a 2017 or a 2018 goal.”

For Sunday’s race, Llano admits that he’s honored to race with U.S. Olympic silver medalist and Boston and New York City Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi.

“To be compared to Meb at any point of your career is a very special thing,” he says. “That my name is even being mentioned alongside his is an honor. It’s a cool thing. If you had told me that when I was in college I probably would have laughed at you and not believed that it was true, but I’ve come a long way in the past few years.”

This weekend will be Llano’s inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll race. He often trains while listening to music and admits that he’s excited at being able to tune out while racing through the scenic streets of San Diego. He says that the race will be more about competing than about time.

“I know given the fact that you got Meb there and other people like Shadrack Biwott that it’s going to be a fast race.” Says Llano, who thinks he can dip under 62 minutes if he has a good day. “Regardless of time, it will be really nice to be out there competing and having those nice distractions like the bands keeping things fun for us.”

Besides Meb, Llano will be squaring off against top-class runners on Sunday like Josphat Boit, who owns a 61:33 half-marathon PR, and Biwott, who ran a personal best on the San Diego course last year and has represented the United States in the World Half Marathon Championships.