Marathon Master Adriana Fernández
Long distance running pushes athletes beyond the realm of the physical. Even those in top shape cannot complete the 26-mile marathon distance without serious dedication and training. They need mental preparation and strength to focus on a distant goal. They are alone, without teammates to pick up the pieces, without time-outs, and without a second string. Theirs is singular movement, the height of individual athletic performance. The bodies of long distance runners are carved and chiseled by their movement across the land. Runners feel connected to the land, not only by their grounded movement, but also by their dedication to travel across different terrains. They not only have to connect to the land but also overcome it.
Women have especially felt the weight of singularity concerning long distance running. They were excluded from participating in the Olympic Marathon until the end of the 20th century, even though the legend of a Greek woman unofficially completing the 1896 Olympic Marathon does exist. The first official Women’s Olympic Marathon was held in Los Angeles in 1984 when Adriana Fernández was only 13 years old. A little over a decade later, Fernández began her Olympic career in the 1996 Summer Games. She has gone on to compete in every Olympic marathon since that time.
At the height of her career, Fernández was the first Mexican woman to run in and the first Mexican to win the New York City Marathon. In 1999, she became a sensation in New York when she finished with a time of 2:24:06, the second best time in the history of the New York City Marathon. For that win and setting a national marathon record in Mexico, Fernández was featured on the cover of “El Diario”, the largest New York City Spanish-language magazine. As a guest on various television programs including David Letterman and the Today Show, she became an icon in the NYC Hispanic community.
Fernández maintained a rigid training program, coached by her husband Rodolfo Gómez, a famous Mexican marathon runner. Many marathon runners complain about hills and changes in elevation. However, Fernández was no stranger to steep, rugged terrain. She trained at the Nevado de Toluca Volcano and the Desierto de los Leones. Located in central Mexico, the Nevado de Toluca is the fourth highest peak in Mexico. According to the Mexican National Parks guide, the Desierto de los Leones (Desert of the Lions) located within Mexico City, has an altitude that varies from 2,600 to 3,700 meters above sea level, with a rainy, foggy climate. After conquering those two places, it’s no surprise that as a 28-year-old, Fernández pulled far ahead of her competitors in the mostly flat course of the NYC marathon and never looked back.
According to Passo Sports, Adriana Fernández began her running career without anticipating that it would in fact be her career. When she was 15-years old, her father pushed his family to start jogging. He was concerned about their lack of exercise. Four years later, Rodolfo Gómez was her coach. After high school, Fernández still didn’t consider running as a potential career. She studied civil rights law and finished a five-year program; though running became her main focus shortly afterwards.
She chose the correct career and set record after record in Mexico while becoming the leading figure in long distance running for Mexican women. In 2003, Fernández held Mexican records in the 5,000 meter run, the 10,000 meter run, the half marathon (13 miles), and the marathon (26 miles). Her personal best time in a marathon was established at the 1999 London Marathon, where her time was 2:24:06. In 2006, Mexican Madaí Pérez finally beat Fernandez’s marathon record. Fernández earned four gold medals in the Pan American Games from 1995-2003 and one gold in the Central American and Caribbean Games.