Plenty of things can go wrong during a 26.2-mile run, as Nick Arciniaga has discovered. He dropped out of the Boston Marathon in 2012 with stomach problems after hanging with the leaders for 9 miles. Later that year, as one of the favorites in the California International Marathon, he went out too fast and faded.
After more than a year of disappointing results, Arciniaga hopes his 13th marathon will turn his luck around. The California native is among the favorites in Sunday’s Twin Cities Marathon, where he is seeking his first victory at the distance and his first U.S. title. The 32nd edition of the marathon, which runs from the Metrodome to the State Capitol grounds, serves as the U.S. championship for men and women.
Arciniaga, 30, has the fastest marathon time of anyone in the field. His personal record of 2 hours, 11 minutes, 30 seconds carried him to second place at the 2011 Houston Marathon, his best result at the distance. He is seeded fifth among the elite men who are racing for the $25,000 winner’s share of the $145,000 purse. This time, he hopes his experience — and several months of productive training — will boost him to the top of the podium.
“I’ve won some half-marathons and some 5Ks and 10Ks, but the marathon has been more of a struggle for me,’’ said Arciniaga, who now lives and trains in Flagstaff, Ariz. “My last three marathon results have been failures, in my opinion. It’s all about trial and error and being ready on that day.
“There is so much working against you in the marathon. But I have a lot of experience under me and a lot of confidence in my training. To go out there and execute as best I can would mean a lot to me.’’
Arciniaga turned pro in 2006 after graduating from Cal State-Fullerton, choosing to earn a living as an athlete rather than as an accountant. He has focused on the marathon for the past several years, staying through all its frustrations.
He finished 17th at the U.S. Olympic marathon trials in 2007 and has since worked his way into the top 10 at some of the country’s most prestigious races. Arciniaga placed 10th at the 2008 Boston Marathon, eighth at the 2009 New York City Marathon and second in Houston, learning more about preparation and tactics with every race.
After his bad day in Boston in 2012, he hoped to bounce back with a strong performance in the New York City Marathon later that year. Hurricane Sandy ruined those plans when it forced cancellation of the race. A month later, Arciniaga placed fifth in the California International Marathon on a rainy, windy day.
He wasn’t any happier with his seventh-place finish (2:17:04) in his only marathon this year, the Los Angeles Marathon in March.
That left him wanting more. Arciniaga hasn’t raced much in 2013, but he said a summer full of good workouts has prepared him well.
After getting a taste of the course Friday morning, when he ran the final 3 miles, he feels good about his chances of finally earning a victory.
“I have the fastest time in the field, and that gives me a lot of confidence,’’ he said. “And I have a lot of energy from the last couple of races being a letdown. I know I’m not going to let myself quit if things get tough. My main goal is to win.’’