Daniel Tapia’s Unconventional Road to Running Success

When Daniel Tapia lines up to race the LA Marathon on March 15, 2015, it won’t be his first time running against fast competition. Tapia says he is not the race favorite, but he likes his chances.

“Training has been going great,” Tapia said. “Everything from marathon specific workouts to the gym and recovery has been done to give myself the best opportunity to win the LA Marathon.”

The newest ASICS Mammoth Track Club elite athlete, Tapia, 28, is confident in his training and ready to take his hard work to the streets of Los Angeles. Tapia, who grew up in Prunedale, Calif., moved to Mammoth Lakes last fall and has seen his fitness increase with altitude training while running alongside a team of elite marathoners. In Los Angeles, he will be racing Ryan Hall, the fastest American ever at the distance, and a deep field of Americans vying for the 2015 U.S. Marathon Championship title.

In 2012, Tapia won the California International Marathon—on paper he was seeded 20th. Tapia placed 9th at the 2013 Boston Marathon in personal record time of 2:14:30, which earned him a spot on the U.S. team for the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

“I was never supposed to be an elite athlete,” Tapia said. “I was the fifth guy on my high school team; I couldn’t even finish in the top ten in my league, and here I am finishing top ten in the world’s most prestigious footrace.”

First a soccer player, Tapia started running his sophomore year in high school for off-season conditioning, but when he wasn’t fast enough to earn a scholarship to run collegiately he took a break from the sport. A year later he started running again for fitness and he truly fell in love with the sport.

“I ran because I wanted to be healthy,” Tapia said. “And for the first time in my life I felt like I was really enjoying it.” He ran his first half marathon at Big Sur in 2006 and found inspiration in the women’s winner, Olympian and former Mammoth Track Club athlete Jen Rhines. She ran 1:12 that day and Tapia made it his goal to come back the following year and run faster than the women’s winner.

When Tapia made his first world team he was a law student, and working part time in the family restaurant business. He woke up early to run before work, then did second runs before going to class in the evenings. If there wasn’t time for the second run, he did it late at night on the Monterrey bike path.

“I looked at it more as a blessing than a burden,” Tapia said. “I had the opportunity to not only run, but to run at a high level, which I think a lot of people would love to do.” Working for his family’s business, getting an education, and running was a lot to handle, but Tapia said he feels thankful for the support of his family. “More than anything all of these things made me believe in hard work,” he said. “I can do anything I set my mind to.”

Now that Tapia is a professional athlete with a contract he can focus simply on running and pursuing goals like making an Olympic team and winning a major marathon. He meets Coach Andrew Kastor and his teammates daily for runs, and gym workouts. He focuses on recovery and eating well, and enjoys the companionship that a team provides.

“Living in Mammoth and training at altitude is something I always wanted to do,” Tapia said. “I trained for 7 years by myself, so having a strong team chemistry where you meet for practice everyday was the major selling point to join the Mammoth Track Club.”

Working with an established coach like Kastor was another reason Tapia chose Mammoth.

“He is a great coach, but more important than anything he is a great person,” Tapia said. “His actions and feelings are very genuine. You know he cares about you beyond running.“

Since joining the team, Tapia ran a personal best at the 2015 U.S. Half Marathon Championships in January while ultimately training for the LA Marathon. Although a fast time in LA would be nice, he says he is there to compete for the win.

The point-to-point course starts at Dodger Stadium near downtown LA, travels through Hollywood and Beverly Hills before descending to the sea and finishing in Santa Monica near the pier. The rolling course favors strong runners who run smart.

“It’s going to take strength and patience,” Tapia said. “I like it because it benefits guy like me.”

For more information about elite athletes in Mammoth lakes, check out MammothLakesCrib.com

Monica Prelle

Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine, and travel writer who would rather be running, climbing, or mountain biking. See more of Monica's posts here, read more of her work at monicaprelle.com and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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