Donna North High School Head Cross Country Coach Basilio Mendoza is known for his extraordinary leadership and successful seasons. This year under his direction, he helped lead his cross country runners to state where they were named Conference 5A State Runner-Up.
This same drive he instills in his students is what he uses to motivate himself as he prepares for the rigorous Boston Marathon. Mendoza found out that he qualified to run the 26.2-mile race when he participated in a McAllen Marathon recently. “I said ‘you know what, I’m going to run and try to qualify,” Mendoza said. “I’ve always wanted to but never had the time. I told my wife I was getting old and had better go for it before it was too late.”
Mendoza went for it. He remembers the day was windy and about 70 degrees. As he followed the route, the temperature dropped to around 40 degrees. In spite of the conditions, the 51 year-old managed to make the time required for his age group. “I felt I could have run a lot faster but I ran a 3:22,” Mendoza said. “Still, I met the qualifying mark for my age group which was 3:30.”
Later, Mendoza learned that of the hundreds of participants running in the McAllen Marathon, he was the only one of all age groups who met the qualifying mark. “I was shocked but ecstatic,” he said. “I know there weren’t a lot of people in front of me but I still thought there were more people my age somewhere around me. I guess they didn’t make it.”
The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the best-known road-racing events that stretches through eight Massachusetts cities and towns. It is open to runners 18 or older from any nation, but they must meet certain criteria. To qualify, a runner must first complete a marathon on a certified course affiliated with the International Association of Athletics Federations within a certain period of time before the date of the marathon. What makes this race unique is that everyone on the line needs to qualify first.
Mendoza met the criteria and is preparing for the race which takes place April 17. Every morning, without fail, he arms himself with an aqua belt and runs in the swimming pool for about an hour. After work, he hits the streets and runs another 10 miles. On Sundays, he takes in 20 miles. “There will be some guys who are going to be flying coming in at 2:08 and some ladies will be really fast too. A lot of them are world-class runners. My time is gone but I’m a competitor and I want to beat as many people as I can and enjoy it at the same time.”
The Boston Marathon will make available an app that spectators in attendance can use to track the participants of their choice. Mendoza anticipates a group of supporters will be on hand to help cheer him on as he makes his way through the course.
While his students most likely will not attend, they will be there in spirit. “My kids have been encouraging me,” Mendoza said. “They say ‘hey coach go for it. Go get it. You always tell us too, now it’s your turn.’ ”
Mendoza echoes this same message to his students in the classroom. “I have a favorite quote that I tell my students,” Mendoza said. “I tell them ‘time is a thief for those who are undecided, so if you never decide on anything, time is going to pass you by and you’ll be left without nothing. You need to believe in yourself and make things happen.’