Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Roman makes his mark in Chicago Marathon

Brom Hoban

Rolando Roman trained though one of the hottest Austin summers on record, preparing for the Chicago Marathon. And the heat acclimation might have paid off, had Chicago been a repeat of the 2007 and 2008 races, where temperatures soared to nearly 90 degrees.

Instead, Roman — along with about 35,000 other runners — faced near-freezing conditions, with biting winds. Still, Roman had a great run, finishing first among approximately 120 Austin runners, setting a personal best in the process.

A former wrestler for the University of Puerto Rico, Roman came to Texas in the 1990s to attend graduate school at Southwest Texas State, picking up a master's in physiology of exercise.

With no wrestling scene, it wasn't long before his competitive spirit led him to running.

"I've always enjoyed running," he said. "You need a good aerobic capacity for wrestling, and I wrestled at 156 pounds, so sometimes had to drop 25 pounds before the season. Running helped do that."

Before moving up to the marathon, Roman showed he had some real potential, setting marks of 33:40 for the 10K, 16:02 for the 5K and 1:14:40 for the half-marathon.

He started training seriously with a RunTex group in 2002, and ran his first marathon — the Austin Marathon — in 2003, notching a 2:54.

With his background in exercise science, it's no surprise Roman took a methodical approach to marathon training. To run at 5:45 in the morning, he wakes up a 4:15 a.m. and stretches before having a light breakfast. He built up his mileage gradually, having never exceeded 50 miles in his early training. Roman spent sixth months building up to 80 miles a week, significantly more than he had trained for past marathons.

"I incorporated two marathon pace runs a month into my long runs," he said. "I'd start out at 7:00 minute pace, and then run around 5:45 per mile pace for the last 10 miles of a 22 mile run.

Heading into Chicago, he felt ready to run a 2:35 marathon. And though he fell short, he learned much from the experience.

"I now know I can do a 2:35," he said. "I was running sub-six-minute miles and passed the half in 1:17:34, right on pace to run the 2:35. But I probably should have dressed warmer — it was 36 degrees and I was freezing.

"There were really big headwinds coming off of Lake Michigan during the last 10K on Michigan Avenue. When I got to 25 miles, I realized that I'd need to run a 5:45 for that last mile to break 2:40 and I knew I just couldn't do it. But my 2:42:03 is still my fastest time ever by 12 minutes."