“Running is something that I was always good at, something that I would do no matter what, it was always my little escape in some way. Whatever was happening at home, running would just make me feel a little better when I got to go out. It was just my escape and I needed it—I need it to this day. It’s the only time that I feel that nothing negative could touch me.”
Fernando Cabada is a former professional distance runner who is still competing at an elite level. In 2006, he ran the seventh fastest American debut marathon of all-time, clocking 2:12:27 at Fukuoka in Japan. In the buildup to that race, before he even signed his first professional contract, Fernando broke the American record in the 25K, running 1:14:21, an average of 4:47 per mile, capturing his first national championship. He won two more national titles in his career at the 2008 U.S. Marathon Championship and 2011 U.S. 25K championship. He has personal bests of 1:02 for the half marathon and 2:11:36 for the marathon, which is pretty damn impressive no matter how you slice it.
The results don’t even begin to tell half of Fernando’s story, however, and we get into the rest of it in this conversation: from his his rough upbringing in Fresno, California, where he suffered abuse at the hands of his father, to the close relationship he has with his mother and how that’s even strengthened in recent years. We talked about being embarrassed by who he was as a kid and how he’s worked to put that behind him later in life. He told me why finishing second in a school yard race as a 9-year-old was the best day of his life to that point. Fernando explains why he was feeling more depressed than ever in 2014 despite it being his best year of racing ever, and how he picked himself up afterward and found a way forward. We also his relationship with running now and the place it occupies in his life, and a heck of a lot more.