As the son of marathoners, Diego Rivas was born to run. But he didn’t pick up the sport himself until he moved to Boston in 2011 to attend Northeastern University.
Shortly after he arrived, he says, he was drawn to the city’s tight-knit running community, to its energy and esprit. For him, “it seemed like everyone was running,” and he wanted in.
In no time at all, Rivas was completing half-marathons and triathlon-style events. And then he was working remotely with a running coach from his home country of Venezuela, preparing to run California’s 2015 Mountains 2 Beach Marathon while on co-op at Apple.
As it turns out, he’s pretty fast. He completed the race in 2 hours, 59 minutes, 19 seconds, good for third place in his age group, and his impressive time automatically qualified him for the 2016 Boston Marathon.
On Monday, he will be one of 30,000 people to run the prestigious race, to trek 26.2 miles through eight iconic cities and towns.
“I consider Boston a second home, and running this race as a way to say goodbye to the city will be amazing,” says Rivas, E’16. “I’ve lived here a while now, and it’s where I started running.”
In the fall, he’ll be taking his running prowess to the West Coast, enrolling in the master’s in engineering program at the University of California, Berkeley. But for now, he’s going to savor his final weeks in Boston.
Sometimes in life you encounter tough challenges, but you need to keep pushing forward and keep focused on your goal.
— Diego Rivas, who will be running the Boston Marathon on Monday
On race day, he’ll be wearing a black tank top emblazoned with an image of the Venezuelan national flag and the name DIEGO in big white capital letters. “Running with thousands of people cheering for you and calling your name will be exciting,” he says, “and I’m looking forward to the challenge.” He’ll be dedicating his run to his marathoning friends in Boston and to the victims of the 2013 bombings, which killed three people and injured 260 others. “For me,” he says, “it will be an honor.”
The 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound marathoner has been training six or seven days per week for the past several months, running thousands of miles and lifting weights at the gym. Over the past few days, he’s been carb-loading. His marathon goal time is 2 hours, 55 minutes, and if his latest 22-mile training run is any indication, he’ll hit his mark on Monday. “A lot of runners say you get your medal on the day of the race, but you earn the medal through training,” he says. “It’s about being consistent, knowing you could sleep an extra hour but going out and training instead.”
No matter the results, Rivas won’t have much downtime to savor the experience. In June, he’ll be competing in San Francisco’s Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, a prestigious competition comprising a 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the shores of the St. Francis Yacht Club; a grueling 18-mile bike ride; and a demanding 8-mile run through the trails of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area.
For him, the swim will be the most difficult part of the race, a particularly taxing open water challenge fraught with potential danger. And yet he’s never thought twice about competing. “Sometimes in life you encounter tough challenges,” says Rivas, who will be training for the triathlon by swimming at Walden Pond and biking the Minuteman trail, “but you need to keep pushing forward and keep focused on your goal.”
It’s a lesson he’ll be drawing on for the rest of his life, whether he’s pounding the pavement in preparation for yet another marathon or working on a particularly difficult project at an engineering firm. “I’m inspired by people who push themselves beyond what they believe is possible,” he says, “so I try to do the same.”