The Top American At The 2016 Chicago Marathon Ended His Day on Crutches, But Dropping Out Wasn’t An Option For Diego Estrada

Estrada: “With the year I’ve had, (dropping out) wasn’t an option,”

by Mike Knapp, for
October 9, 2016

CHICAGO — After dropping out of his debut marathon at the Olympic Trials in Los Angeles back in February, Diego Estrada came into Sunday’s 39th Bank of America Chicago Marathon feeling like this was a make or break race when it came to his future at the distance.

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Things were going well for the 26-year-old in the early going, as he was part of a huge leading pack that was running at a very comfortable pace that was pretty much in line with his goal of about a 2:10 finish. At the 10K mark, though, adversity came in the form of a fall when Estrada stepped on a water bottle and went down, rolling his ankle in the process.

Estrada was left with a decision: DNF for the second time at the marathon in 2016, or get up and run and see how he feels. He chose the latter, and it paid off as the finished eighth overall and was the first American in 2:13:56.

“With the year I’ve had, it wasn’t an option,” Estrada said. “One split second changed my life, I could’ve decided to give up, but I wouldn’t be sitting here right now, I’d be hating my life because on my second marathon attempt I dropped out again. I probably wouldn’t have my head on straight for a third attempt so I decided ‘not today, we’ll see what I can do’.”

Estrada, who hobbled into the media center on crutches and with his ankle tightly taped, caught back up with the pack but didn’t think he could run much faster than the 5:00-5:05 range. That kept him in the race, though, as Sunday’s slow pace kept the pack together through 30K.

When a group of four runners, including eventual winner Abel Kirui, used a huge surge to separate themselves from the pack, Estrada watched them go. While he thought it would have been a great opportunity to get out front and compete and was a fit for his 10K speed, he also knew if he had the results would have been ugly.

Instead, he soldiered on and ran 22:52 from the 35K mark to the finish, which was the fourth-best time in the field down the stretch.

Estrada will probably feel the ankle for quite some time, but he is happy he continued. Not finishing his second marathon in a row would have been “devastating”, and Estrada didn’t know if after going through the investment of time twice and failing if he would have it in himself mentally and emotionally to go after it a third time.

That quick decision on the ground at the water stop means he is ready to see what he can do at the distance in the future.

“For a second I thought the universe was going against me,” Estrada said. “You run a good half and people expect you to be a marathoner, and that’s really been the dream of mine, even in high school. At that point, I was second-guessing yourself and thinking ‘maybe it isn’t for me’.

“I see that time and I know there is so much I can do. I think this encourages the belief in me that I was born to do this.”

Estrada led an American delegation that saw five men finish between eighth and 15th. Elkanah Kibet, who also was among the leaders deep into the race, was 10th in 2:16:37, Tim Young was 11th in 2:16:43, Andrew Epperson 12th (2:16:54) and Tony Migliozzi 15th (2:19:39).

Luke Puskedra, who finished fifth here last year and was in the mix at 30K, fell off from there and eventually finished 19th in 2:20:18. *Results

More: Full Chicago Marathon Coverage and Analysis

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