It was 15 years ago that Martin Cantu Jr. set a goal for himself.
Then an optimistic 21 year old and avid runner began training for the world’s oldest and most famous road race — the Boston Marathon.
Youthful and energetic, Cantu trained and trained and was confident that qualifying was only a matter of showing up at a qualifier and running a good race. He showed up to the 2002 Compaq Houston Marathon and race his race. The only thing he didn’t account for was the heat and humidity awaiting him, especially in the late miles.
Despite his best efforts, the elements finally caught up to him at about mile 22. He began to cramp severely. He tried to fight though, but it was unbearable. He was forced to stop and was treated by emergency medical personnel. The advised him to stop, but Cantu was determined. He knew he was close to the qualifying time, so that was enough to push him and carry him to the finish line.
Limping, Cantu finished the race that day in Houston with a time of 3:14.06, just four minutes and six seconds off the qualifying time of 3:10. It’s a time that Cantu still thinks about to this day.
“I cramped up that day because of how humid it was and because of all the sweating,” Cantu said. “Here in Texas, we train as hard as anyone, but in those really long runs with a lot of miles, that sweat started to take the body’s nutrients.”
After the run in Houston, Cantu put running on hold. He focused on work and life. But recently, he had that urge to run again.
“I took about a 12-year break, but I slowly started to get back into it,” said Cantu, who works for Wells Fargo in Alice as a personal banker.
Early last year, Cantu rejoined the Corpus Christi Roadrunners, the running team he belonged to, which he credits for elevating his interest in running.
“I started running with the Roadrunners again, and it kind of lit my fire,” Cantu said. “I told myself, ‘You know you have some unfinished business.’ It was 15 years ago, but that I tried for the Boston Marathon. I was going to try again, and this time I wasn’t going to take no for an answer.”
Cantu began running more and then finally began an eight-week regiment leading up to his first attempt at qualifying December, all along dropping some 30 pounds just by running. That first run in December was better, but again he was slowed down at the end by leg cramps.
“I began another eight weeks of training and it made me train even harder,” he said.
Cantu also rethought his approach to qualifying. Through all of his training this time around, he ran in cool temperatures. Some mornings in December and January were even in the 30s and 40s. Still, it was an environment that he felt comfortable in. This time, Cantu sought out a qualifying marathon in a colder location. He picked the 2018 Sprouts Mesa-Phx Marathon in Phoenix, Ariz. this past Saturday.
This time, the experience and the environment paid off.
“It was 40 degrees when I ran and I was loving it,” Cantu said. “While I was training at home, I was out running around Alice at 5 in the morning and it was 30 and 40 degrees a lot of the time. I felt stronger and I could run longer in those conditions, so I felt good this weekend. I don’t think I even broke a sweat until the 15th mile.”
Cantu, now 37, finished the race in a time of 3:04.34, more than enough to earn him a spot in the 2019 Boston Marathon.
For more Cantu is basking in the local fame. His Facebook page is filled with posts from friends offering their congratulations and well wishes.
Cantu plans on returning to running and his next goal is rejoining his local mixed team to try and win their division at the annual Beach To Bay Relay Marathon in Corpus Christi. Then, it off for more running with an eye on Boston.