Our next interview is with 31-year-old Fernado Cabada.
Fitting with Cabada’s California roots, the artwork for this piece was provided by Photoshop artist and tutor Andrew Kavanagh who lives in Los Angeles. Andrew is the founder and head organizer of the Photoshop and Lightroom group on Facebook. Many thanks also to PhotoRun.net for allowing to use to the original photo of Fernando for free.
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Now to Cabada. What kind of an intro does he need?
Well, he’s a man on a mission. As you’ll see, Cabada is out to prove to the world that he’s not to be written off. He desperately wants a legacy and is tearing down the track at this very moment trying to secure it.
Call it a comeback?
Like all the interviews here, I’ve left it pretty much unedited for you.
It’s a chance for you to get to know Fernando more than you would if you read a short human interest story about him or an 800-word blurb in some glossy magazine.
So, without further ado, I now raise the curtain and give you Fernando Cabada.
RML: I read your new blog and one of your first posts had something to do with jumping off a bridge. What does that mean? Why did you call it that?
Fernando Cabada: You know when you are scared about something and you don’t know the outcome, like jumping off a bridge into a lake? It’s just kind of scary. But then you are just like, “I’m just going to jump up and do this.” So, for the longest time I played around with the idea of having a Web site or a blog. I think to some extent everyone cares what someone thinks. I felt that over the years I had a pretty good following on Facebook and I felt like it was getting to be the time where I should start something.
So back to the fear concept you talked about. Are you afraid of putting something out there on a Web site or is the fear something to do with moving into the next phase of your running career? Why talk about the concept of fear in the first place?
That is a good question and it kind of makes me think. I think it was putting myself out there a little bit. I kind of put myself out there on Facebook with my status, but I can only put so much. I can’t write a whole freaking two or three pages of something for a status. It’s just kind of putting me out there a little more and not worrying. I’m not going to have someone proofread it and say that I need a comma here. That’s the thing I didn’t want to have to do. But I was wondering how to do a blog? Honestly, I’m kind of wrapped up in my own world. I’ve read some people’s blogs. I’ve read probably four people’s blogs in the past four years. I don’t even know how to do Web sites. I didn’t even know how to start one up—hadn’t even thought about it. I just found the right person to do it and got that going. Really, I just wanted to get something going by the end of the year and hope to have it better in 2014.
So you are saying that the reflection about jumping off a bridge then is just about doing a blog? But is it at all in any way about the steps you’ve taken in your career, because you’ve moved and are in Big Bear now. You have a new coach.
No. Honestly, I didn’t think about that. I’m only thinking about that now, because you’re bringing it up. So now it’s kind of interesting. No, I don’t think it’s that. But I could see how it could be like that. I’ve changed a lot. I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life as far as coaches. I think if you want to survive in this sport, you got to mix it up sometimes and why not? I’m not dead. I’ll change my mind a thousand times if I have to, but I’m still in this sport. I’m still doing it. I’ve been successful. But no—that jumping-off-a-bridge thing didn’t have much to do with changing at all. It was more purely putting myself out there a little more.
As I was preparing for this interview, I found some more interesting things that you wrote. Here’s another one: “When I was younger, I didn’t know how to properly express myself and get my point across.” And then this one: “I had to surrender myself.” You had this break and gave up a little bit on running. You were in North Dakota. You came back—-
For a couple months, yeah, but I came back. I can see what you are saying. I just think it’s through age and maturity. I think eventually, I just grew up a little more. I accepted myself. For some people, it’s harder to accept certain ways. When you grow up not with the best things or the best opportunities, it’s kind of hard to break out of that. It really is hard—especially when you thought a certain way when you grew up. I don’t think people understand that. People say how important the neighborhood is that your kid grows up in. The parents are educated. It’s really important for this. I want to make sure I set it up right for my future kids. I think, especially over the past three years, I felt that I really understood myself. And for quotes where I didn’t know how to express myself, it’s like, you know, whenever you’re talking to someone and they say something that’s defensive, you take it defensively. I think automatically, I would always be a defensive person. Let’s just say when I was on Letsrun. My name was King Cobra. I was a user. I had a password and all that stuff. In college, I remember I was on that thing 40 or more hours a week. I was on Letsrun all the time. When there was a NAIA [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics] subject, I was on it. It’s what me and my teammates did. And after 2007, I kind of stopped all that, just because I just wasn’t winning. I don’t know what I was trying to win from. Everyone was anonymous. If anyone attacked me on there, I would try to argue back. I just think I went about it the wrong way before then to express myself. It’s just part of growing up for me. It took me a little longer. Some people never get it. I’m all right with it now. I kind of want to try to break away. I want to direct my focus on something else. My past is my past. There are people out there who grew up like me and they need a role model. They need a hero, and I can be that. I always have to bring it back to where I came from. Even though I don’t want to seem like I’m crying from it. My life is my life. I don’t want no one to have pity for me. I might be poor right now, but that’s my choice. I can go and do something else, but I simply don’t want to, because I am bitter in a lot of ways. I will always say that I want to inspire people, but yeah I’m still bitter inside over who I want to prove wrong, because there are people that I want to prove wrong. It has nothing to do with anyone on a message board; that’s not even it. It’s more like personal—people from high school, coaches. There people that I know personally that I couldn’t connect with that bug me. I had an ex-girlfriend—and I’m not going to say her name—but maybe people will get on to this, which is fine. I’m still thinking about what she told me. She told me this: She said, “Fernando, 30 years from now, nobody is going to remember you.” I remember, we were in an ice cream shop and I walked out of that ice cream shop. I was mad and I didn’t now what to say. That haunted me till now. We broke up later. Parts of me want to keep in it [running] just to prove her wrong, because I cared for her so much. I almost believed it. She kind of brought me back to reality. Maybe it will be true that no one will remember me, but I want to try. Who doesn’t want to be remembered? In a way, I kind of want to prove her wrong. [He chuckles.] Thirty years from now, I hope someone will bring me up.
Ok, so how will you be remembered then? What’s Cabada’s 30-year plan?
Is it going to be the marathon?
Yeah, the marathon is my best opportunity. See, I just don’t know if I’m going to be good enough to be really, really remembered on a world scene or a national scene. Maybe on a local scene? Me being from the Central Valley—from Fresno, California—people have talked about me since I was young, back 15 years ago, because I’m local there, so I guess I would be OK with that realistically. I don’t know if 2:09 will be good enough to be remembered thirty years from now. I mean Bill Rodgers, someone like that, he won Boston and he is remembered. I don’t know if I will ever be in that same category, which I’m at a point where I’m not giving up. I’m OK if I’m not on that level. It looks like I’m probably not going to be. I only have so many years and it kind of sucks to even say that, but it’s just realistic. I tell you what, though, and I hate to be repeating it over and over and over, but I really think that I’m finally getting it and I’m about to be in the best shape of my life. I think I am right now. The half marathon this past weekend [Big Sur Half Marathon where he ran 1:03:25]: I don’t think my fitness necessarily showed it. But whatever excuses I want to throw in, it just didn’t happen to me. I’m going to have to wait for another performance and it’s going to have to be Houston [Marathon], probably.
But you were top American in Pittsburgh [at the EQT 10 Miler on November 3].
Yeah. I’ve been kicking some American ass. That’s for sure. I’ve been beating some really good guys. In Pittsburgh, I beat like five 1:02 [half-marathon] guys. But I’m not going to get credit. No one is going to give me credit. I don’t think so. I think people like my competitors and other people that follow the sport…I don’t think they are going to start a Letsrun trend about me, saying, “Oh, look how good Fernando is doing!” I think a lot of people are used to not giving me a lot of credit and that’s fine. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I’m going to keep kicking ass. There is going to be a point where I’m not going to be denied. I’m going to go do it. And all the people that hate on me: They are going to be my fans.
Did you just say that all the people that hate on you are going to be your fans?
Yeah, after a while they will. I think a lot of them have returned already. There are people I know who are my age and probably didn’t like me in college, because we were young and more hateful. You know, you get on the Internet and look at the results back in college hoping that your other competitor did that, just because that’s what a lot of us did. But I think that a lot of people who were my age, I think people who gave up themselves, they still see me at it. And they say, “Hey man, Cabada. I’m really happy that you stuck at it and are doing well.”
You had mentioned 2:09. You’re a 2:11 marathoner. Where did you get 2:09? Is that your goal?
I think that’s the realistic goal for now. [He sighs.] It better happen before the next Olympic Trials, because if I’m not in that shape then there’s no way I’m making the team.
Look at the Americans now in the marathon. Don’t you think that this is the time? You’re in your marathoning prime in terms of your age. This is your shot. Don’t you think that the American depth in the marathon is declining?
Oh definitely. Yep, it is my time.
Are you optimistic about that?
Yeah. The scariest thing that I’ve told myself—and it’s always been kind of a disappointment for me in the past—is that I know that I have what it takes. That’s the thing. I just haven’t done the proper thing. I haven’t done the proper training. I’m finally where I need to be with my training. I just barely got here [in Big Bear]. And the set up that I got here is going to put me in the position to make the top three—not come from behind, hoping that the top guys fall apart, but to actually be amongst them and race from the get go up front. At the Trials, back in 2012, I thought that it was going to go out conservative and pick up in the second half, but I got proven wrong. They took it out in 1:03. I just wasn’t ready for that, but next time I will be ready for anything, whether it goes out 1:07 or 1:02. I know I am capable of doing it.
You talked about your set up at Big Bear. What’s that mean? I know Carlos Handler—a friend of yours—coaches you.
Where do you live? You talked about being poor. Are you sleeping on a cot?
[He laughs.] No, I have a house. It’s a small, two-bedroom, one bath home. It’s not a modern place. It’s at 6700 feet. What we do is we jog every day here, but do workouts at sea level. Sea level is a little under an hour and a half to get to. Three times a week we drive down and do all our stuff there. The reason why is because you could really be specific and get the right intensity in. A lot of people like to train at altitude, because they have no choice because they are seven hours away from sea level. Anyways, at altitude you want to run 4:50 [per mile] pace and you are saying that you’d be so much faster at sea level, but I don’t know if I believe that, because I think a 4:50 mile is a 4:50 mile. Your legs are moving at a 4:50-mile clip. You are hoping that you are going to go faster at sea level, while in this situation I never have to hope for anything. When I go into it, whether it is 4:30 mile repeats or 4:40, whatever, it is very specific. Your body is not going to get broken down as quick. I’ve been OK with it so far. That’s what it’s really about.
How are you making ends meet? How are you paying the bills?
Races. I run for money. With $2000 a month, I’m OK. I can survive on $25,000 a year. I’m not in debt. I’ve essentially paid off my car. I paid back my school loans thanks to a big marathon win in 2008. I pretty much got in debt after that. I won with my bonuses and everything like $47,000. I just put myself in a position where I don’t have to stress so much. I’ve never known any way else besides not having money. I will go buy myself dinner and if I want a pair of pants, I guess I can do it. I got what I need. It’s always kind of kept me hungry and I’m fine with it.
You had a hard upbringing as a child and in this interview you’ve mentioned the struggles in your life. Do these struggles make you a better runner? Running is the business of suffering, right?
Yeah, to a certain extent. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s hard to always be self-motivated. Who doesn’t break down once in a while and ask themselves why they do this? Sometimes I question myself. I mean, I’m human—especially when I go back home and see my friends. I see some of my friends who are drug addicts and in and out of jail. It makes me appreciate the kind of lifestyle I have now. I’m in a safe environment. A lot of people make big deals out of little things. It kind of makes me laugh, because there are a lot of problems out there in the real world—outside the running world—and we are all stuck in our own la-la land here. When I go back home, I see real problems. I’m hearing some drama. It kind of puts it in perspective. I mean, man, I live a great life. Somebody might be running from the law and they’re stressed out about this. Somebody is out to get somebody and I’m over here about ready to get to a nice big city and go race, so my worry is the competition. I don’t have real problems. That’s the point. It’s not like I live in a cardboard box. I got everything I need. I remind myself of that. I don’t have any problems. Everything that I’ve done is my choice to live this way. If I want to run for money it’s my choice. We all have choices and this is the life I chose.
If you look at East Africans in the sport, stereotypically there are tons of them—a lot of depth there. A lot of them struggle and they don’t take anything for granted. Do you think that we in the U.S. live a cushy life? Do you think that makes us weaker in terms of running?
Yeah. I was just talking with my coach. I was joking and I said when I get interviewed, people ask me what motivates me. You know what motivates me? Not being able to turn on my heater all day. My motivation is being able to afford that. My motivation is getting new tires for my car, because they are kind of worn out right now or fill up my gas tank. We were joking, but it’s the truth. I think having to struggle a little bit is good—to stay hungry. Right now, today, I’m thinking that I kind of need a little more money. I’m kind of getting behind on my credit card. I’m just not making enough for my upkeep. A little bit of that makes me hungrier to make sure I race well, so when I wake up tomorrow morning, I’m putting myself in that corner. Like you said, these Africans, they struggle. A lot of them have their wives and their kids back home. I’m sure they struggle. That makes them want to work harder. Definitely, it makes you a little weak when you have a cushioned life. When you’re desperate, it makes you dig down more.
Do you feel like a role model to struggling Latino kids?
Do you have people writing you?
Oh yeah. When people give me comments on my athlete Facebook page, a lot of people are Latinos—whether they are from Central America, South America, or here in the United States—wherever they are at. They say, “You represent us well.” One of them told me I was the fastest Latino marathon runner in the United States. I never really thought of it that way. A lot of Latino runners—kids—want to look up to Ryan Hall, but they can’t. They almost can’t imagine being him, because they’re not him. They’re not the All-American boy. They’re not [Dathan] Ritzenhein. They’re not [Galen] Rupp. I’m the closest to it. I’m the one they look up to, because they look like me. Some of them might sound like me. Their lifestyle growing up, a lot of it, they can just relate to me. I think a lot of people who don’t like me can’t…I just don’t think they’ve ever related to me. They are different than me and I think that sometimes when people are different, they just never get to know them in the first place. They don’t understand their culture or the way that they talk or the way their personality is. I’m a lot of different. I’m not the All-American boy. It’s not going to happen. I’m just me. There are people—a lot of people—millions of Latino boys that do grow up like me. That’s fine. It does give me motivation, and so therefore I don’t ever want people to see me fail or give up. I’ve fallen down before. That’s fine, I think. You struggle. You fall. But at some point I think a lot of people don’t give up on me because I’m 31 and haven’t given in yet. I’m still going. I’m still going to continue.
You called Ryan Hall an All-American kid. Do you feel like an outsider?
Oh yeah. I’m an outsider.
Do you like being an outsider?
I’ve always kind of been one. I remember when I moved from Fresno—when I moved to the ghetto. I was like nine or ten years old. And 99% of the whole school was white people, and so therefore it only made still hang out only with Hispanics. Why? Because we look the same. Our lifestyle is the same. We all got free lunches together. [He laughs.] That’s just who I was comfortable with. It broke up when I was in high school. I went to Buchanan High School. It’s probably one of the best schools for running programs for boys and girls in the nation. The California State Meet is always held there. Their facilities are better than some colleges. Going there, 90-95% was white. It was hard for me. I was on the cross-country team and got along with everybody. Then I started being around people who weren’t like me my sophomore and junior year, but I was still different. I went to Arkansas. I was different. I’ve always kind of been different. I’m different now. How many Hispanic [runners] are there besides Leo Manzano and German Fernandez? There aren’t that many—especially in track and field. But it’s not about that, really. I guess I kind of get motivation to inspire people of my own race. But as far as that, it’s really me against everybody. I want to get as fast as I can—whether they’re white, African, whatever. I’m still trying to beat everybody.
I had read that your father was in and out of prison during your childhood. Is he still alive?
I would think so, yeah. Once in a while I hear from him. He’s a heroin addict. He’s on the streets. He’s living on the streets. He’s a bum.
I thought he was perhaps still in prison.
I just don’t know. I don’t keep in touch with him. Sometimes I hear from him through one of my family members, but other than that he’s the lowest of the low. He picks up cans every day just to get his fix. That’s my Dad. When he was younger, it was a little bit different. It was like he was a badass, but he’s still a loser to me. Whether you’re a badass or looking for cans for drugs. Whatever. I can’t glorify it one way or the other. He wasn’t there for his wife and kids.
You had this break with your professional running where I think you were supervising a cleaning crew for a hotel in North Dakota.
Why where you in North Dakota and why were you supervising a cleaning crew?
The thing is, that whenever I get interviewed, people always get everything mixed up. I just don’t understand it.
This is how it went: There’s a family that I know in North Dakota that I met, because I went to North Dakota back in 2004 for a semester, Minot State University, NAIA. While I was there, it was kind of like a host family. They looked after me. I ended up having a relationship with them. They came out to the Olympic Trials. They supported me with my running and everything. When I was there, all this oil money was starting to come in. I was thinking that I could get a job doing that. There were hookups that I had. I was actually studying to get my commercial driver’s license. I needed a permit. Once I got a permit, I was going to get a job in the oil field, driving trucks—nitrogen into the oil wells—something along those lines. In the meantime, the family that I knew, they were part business owners of these hotels. This [hotel] was one that was being built. In the meantime, I was trying to study and get a job in the oil field, making some real money. I ended up kind of being put on the spot to take over [supervising cleaning crews]. It was a bunch of young girls and they were being paid $25 an hour and they were lollygagging. So I needed to take control and tell them what to do, so I was like a supervisor. I did this while I waited for my real job, but that never happened. I just decided that I needed to come back. I drank and decided to talk about what I could have been. It felt long when I was up there. I wasn’t on the Internet or Letsrun anymore. When you don’t talk about running it can seem like years.
You’re at a point in your career where you want to make a mark. You got that one shot. You want to be remembered in 30 years. Have you ever been tempted to dope?
No. That’s one thing. I’m beyond frustrated, you know. I just feel like it’s so unfair that people are doing this. The thing is, to my defense, I haven’t been around or been in the position to be offered that. I was never good enough where an agent or doctor would come to me. I’ve never been in a big group where people are doing that stuff or in another country. I never put myself in that position. That’s one thing that I hope that people can see or give me credit for. No one needs to give me credit for doing that right thing, because that’s what I want to do. It’s for my selfishness. I didn’t even take vitamins until like 2009. I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t even take vitamin C. I took iron and stuff like that. I got introduced to iron in 2004 when my ferritin count was like a 9. I never went to the doctors or did any of this stuff. I am at this point where I can’t even think about that, because that’s all I got left is my word. I just would never jeopardize it. I remember one of my cousins, an active gang member, he said, “You know, you walk around your neighborhood, your street, and you drop out [of the gang], everyone is going to say that you are a piece of shit.” People might try to tell stories about you, saying what this or that person did, but in the end all they are going to say is, “Look at that dropout.” It’s like the same thing with a drug cheat. Let’s just say someone ran and did everything right, but when they are 28 years old, they did something to cheat. Let’s just say somebody, there’s a story about them in high school, and people say, “Oh yeah, so-and-so was a sophomore in high school and he ran the mile and he won this big race.” And then someone else is going to say, “Wait a minute, are you talking about the drug cheat?” That person could have cheated for less than six months, but just doing it one time and being caught in the face of all the years that you’ve put in is for nothing. Your whole memory is just trashed. And that’s not what’s scaring me. I’m not saying that. I’m just using it as an example of something I’d never want to do. It’s not worth it. Even if someone told me I could make $5 million a year, but then you would get caught in two years. Let’s just say I made $10 million. I’d rather have my name good and clear. People judge me in other ways, and that’s fine, but there’s no way I’d ever want people judging me as a drug cheat.
So that last question was about currently banned substances and people who use them. But do you ever think about the fact that you’re not with an elite group. You’re not part of these groups that have all this money and can throw science and scientists—all this technology—at performance. Do you ever feel like nowadays it comes down to who has the best doctor who can prescribe the right amount of the perfect drugs and still stay above board? Do you feel like the sport has evolved this way—to the point where if you have the right amount of money, then you will get the Olympic medal, because you will have done all the right things thanks to technology and wealth? Do you ever think about that?
Yeah. I’m not trying to say anything bad about [the Nike] Oregon [Project] or anything over there. It’s not even that. I don’t think anyone is really cheating at all over there. It’s not even that. I just think they have smart people on their side who know things. It’s like someone who knows how to check iron and take this dosage of iron. It’s like someone who can say that you need to take this much calcium. They just know how to run tests and take blood, I guess. They know how to check for things. If you have issues, then they fix them. But yeah, you’re right. A lot of people do have money. People who have access to that are successful, but I don’t know. I think American running has taken a step backwards. I remember Chris Solinsky ran 26:59 [10,000m]. All these other guys like [Matt] Tegenkamp ran under 13 minutes [for 5,000m].
So what happened then?
I don’t really know. I don’t want to speculate or say anything about that, but all I know is that I’m glad that I’m getting back on the track. I’m glad that everyone is waiting up for me, because I’m coming. That’s fine with me. If people want to slow down a bit, that’s all right, because I’m catching back up. And once I catch back up, all I need is a little bit of fire, because I’m not bashful. I want that success. All I can do is keep doing what I’m doing. Going back to what I was saying: I don’t know if people were doing something that they shouldn’t have been doing before. I just don’t know. I think that the biological blood passport is slowing people down. I’m not saying for any particular person. I’m glad that they are coming out with that and that there are new tests coming out. I’m just ecstatic. I hope that more people get caught. I’m thankful that I didn’t ever—. There are a lot of stupid things that I’ve done in my life. Not that I’m surprised that I haven’t been unethical. It’s just with running—I’ve always been passionate about it. I’ve cared. I don’t know if someone came to me when I was 22 years old. That was ten years ago. I don’t know how it would have been, but it didn’t happen. I don’t know these situations. There are some stories I hear about people being around medalists and if a medalist is taking this then maybe they were so young and naïve that they took it. I don’t know. Everybody has to deal with the consequences of their actions.
When you are standing at a starting line do you ever look to your left and your right and say, “OK, that guy or that guy is on something.”?
I might get bashed for this, but I think a lot of people are. Not just Americans, though. I think we do a pretty good job staying on top of people. The other month, I was thinking about who was getting tested. I’m like one of the top five people. I’m wondering why I’m getting tested when I’m not making teams or making this big money. Are they out to get me? I’ve had my blood tested eight times—not just urine tests—I’ve been tested nine times already this year. I was tested more than people like Abdi [Abdirahman] or Meb [Keflezighi]. Ryan Hall was only tested by USADA once or twice maybe this year. I just don’t think it’s fair. Now, that’s us. When it comes to the [East] Africans or the Moroccans. I don’t think there’s as much regulation. I think that a lot of people go to these smaller races that don’t have drug testing. But what can I do? I know that some somebody shouldn’t be able to beat me by three minutes. There’s no way in hell. I’m not slow like that. I’m very skeptical. I’m not stupid. A lot of people will tell me that I should quit complaining and go run harder. It’s not just that. I think a lot of people want to believe that hard work pays off. But unfortunately not all the time and it’s not fair. All I can hope for is that there are other tests that come out and that they slow people down. I’ll get my chance again one day when a non-African can break 2:11 [in the marathon] or 62 minutes [in the half marathon]. That should mean something. For now, the people who cheat just mess everything up for the rest of us.
What do you think about lifetime suspensions for dopers?
Of course. That would be awesome.
A lot of runners want this. Why don’t we have it in place already?
Probably, because there always exceptions. Maybe there could be degrees of punishment. There is a difference between someone shooting up EPO as opposed to someone taking something from a vitamin that they didn’t know and it’s against the rules. I don’t know. I was never really into all that drug politics stuff. It’s like government stuff. I didn’t really get into it until the past couple years when I just felt like it was really getting out of control. I had no clue about it. I remember back in 2007, I had no clue about what drugs were. I knew nobody that knew anybody that knew anybody that had doped. I was naïve in that way. I thought it was like high school where the person that works the hardest is the fastest person that wins. People like Martin Fagin. I remember back in 2009, he broke 61 minutes. Now that I think about it, I was like, “Why didn’t I catch that before?” You could just tell, I guess, when people have that quick success. But you just don’t know who to trust anymore. All I can do is focus on myself.
In your blog, you mentioned that you imagined by the time you were 30, you’d be a 2:08 guy. You’d make a lot of money and travel all over the world. You went on to say that the reality now is that you are a 2:11 guy. You said you are desperate to get fast like you since were and that you would make some serious changes. So what are your serious changes?
My attitude. Not feeling sorry for myself. No longer making excuses. I need to put my running in other people’s hands, and being responsible. I have to be the one to blame for allowing myself for getting away from what I know what needs to be done. When I was in college, the college system is really good in terms of pushing. There’s indoor and outdoor track as well as cross country. We are running the mile or on a relay, DMR. We just had a variety of distances in our legs. We’d do long runs. We did all these workouts. I was just so hungry to make my mark. I was aggressive. I think I am faster than that. I think I can improve it, especially in the spring. I think I am going to break 13:34 and 28:25 [his PRs for 5,000m and 10,000m respectively]. I just think it’s about change. But even taking it further: I don’t think I’ve worked as hard as I possibly can. I’m getting there. I was talking to my coach tonight and over the past couple weeks. We agreed that I haven’t really worked that hard. We are always worried that I’m going to get overtired. Or we are focusing on stuff that I don’t think we should be focusing on. We are getting away from speed. In order to run 2:04 or 2:05, I think you almost have to run sub 13 minutes. If someone gave me that speed, I’d run 2:06. [He laughs.] I need to get fast like that to run 2:07 or 2:08. It’s all about going back and trying to get that mile faster. When I was in Boulder at altitude, it was really hard. I just got hung up at doing everything at 4:40 or 4:50 [per mile] pace. In a race, if you go under 4:40, you fall apart. I just think that I have to get faster and make changes like that. I need to do all-out sprints, like 400[m]s. I just did 5 x 400 at 54 [seconds]. I’ve never even touched sub-60 since 2007. Now I’m at 54. I’m frustrated right now. I’m frustrated, because I know I’m capable of doing it. I can talk about it all I want, but those are just empty words. I’m so desperate just to get back there and start racing. In 2006, I ran 1:02 and 2:12. That was my debut: 2:12. I debuted at 25K and broke the [American] record. I just want to get there, but get better. I know I’m capable. I’m going into my prime years. I’m kind of glad I’ve realized all this and have time to fix it. I should never be outside the top 5 in a U.S. championship whether it’s a 10K or a marathon. There’s just no way. I just don’t think there are that many people who are better than me. On any given day, someone could beat me, but given my raw talent, I just don’t think anyone can match that. They better have like East African descent in them, because that’s going to be the only way. Other than that, if it’s just one-on-one and I’m clean and they’re clean, I should be the one that’s better. If someone is doing something they shouldn’t be doing, then they will beat me. But I don’t know how that works. I don’t know if someone’s been cheating for years, I don’t know if it makes them slower after a while, because you see a lot of people who were on the top of world levels, but they are only there for a couple years. There are some Africans who are 2:04 or 2:05, but are only that fast for a couple years. They are then gone. Why is that? I just don’t know if it [doping] taxes you after a few years. I guess I just have to keep taking them one by one. Whoever I race I have to race, even if it’s another generation of drug cheats. I guess that’s what I have to do. I can only do the best I can.
Last question, Fernando: We get into a time machine and go forward 30 years. What do we find about you on Wikipedia or whatever they have then?
Oh man. I don’t know. I don’t know. Right now, I’m kind of disappointed and not as enthusiastic about my future as I should be. I just think over the years of being injured and having disappointments, have humbled me to not think too crazy about it. Dreams are good, I guess. Dreams are free and they keep me going, but I’m just really in tune right now with what I think I can do. I just don’t know if it’s good enough to last the 30 years. I don’t believe if I run 2:09, that that is going to last 30 years. Going back to the beginning of this interview I mentioned that my girlfriend at the time. What she said inspired me to work at the time. I can work hard all I want, but maybe I’ll never achieve that. If that helps me to keep going then I guess it was a success. I guess whatever it takes, right? Whether or not we are trying to prove a phantom wrong or something like that. Sometimes I Tweet things that I don’t even think too much about. I just do it. I think I Tweeted that I think it doesn’t matter who you are trying to prove wrong—whether it’s real or not, if that’s what it takes. Whatever it takes. I think a lot of us think that way. We want to prove somebody wrong, but we don’t even know who that person is.