The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NE student runs Boston Marathon, fights hunger

Diminutive and slight, Crystal Chinea doesn’t look like someone who ran in the 116th annual Boston Marathon April 16.

But, as she said proudly, she did.
During her training for the prestigious race and now post-marathon, the NE student is in the midst of fundraising.

Chinea was confident and ready to embark on what was her second go at the Boston Marathon. She ran the 2011 edition and finished with a time of 3 hours, 48 minutes. This year, she beat that time with 3 hours, 33 minutes in the sweltering heat, which rose to 90 degrees on race day.

Chinea said the gap between those times was due to her training routine, which she amended this year.

“I didn’t have enough hill training,” she said, referencing the up-and-down terrain runners face in Boston. “You’re lucky to catch a minute of flat ground.”

Chinea struggled last year with the rough landscape. Her legs locked up after 14 miles with 12 still to go. She overcame the pain and finished, however. This year, she took measures to train for the hills throughout the marathon by mapping out training courses close to where she lives. Chinea said she kept an eye out anytime she drove by any steep hills that would help with her workouts and made mental notes to take a run there.

The extra training paid off as Chinea achieved her goal of running the entire race without stopping to rest as she had last year.

“At first, I tried to take it at a pretty good pace but realized that pace couldn’t get me there,” she said. “I just focused on going nonstop to the finish. I didn’t let myself stop.”

Chinea’s brother, Luis, said his sister is committed to the race and has worked as hard as he’s ever seen her work while praising her passion.

“Her determination can serve as an inspiration to any person of any age,” he said. “No matter the weather conditions, she is running on. What makes my sister stand out is her perseverance to get better.”

Helping her with training was her former USA track and field Junior Olympics coach in El Paso, Joe Villa. He and Chinea corresponded via email weekly, and Villa mapped out workout routines for her.

Villa was there when Chinea ran her first half-marathon in 2008 in El Paso. He realized that she had gone from a track star to a distance running star and that Chinea is different from other runners.

“What separates her from other runners I’ve coached is her determination to keep training and keep running for all these years,” he said.

He knew Chinea would run a faster time this year but said he would be proud of her regardless of time.

“I’m very proud of Crystal for her accomplishments as a runner and continuing her education and still finding time to train,” he said.

Chinea was comfortable talking to a stranger on a tape recorder, and it’s not surprising she is currently in the radio, television, broadcast program on campus. She doesn’t know if she wants to be behind or in front of the camera but insists “it’s all fun.”

With a heavy academic workload, Villa said Chinea still found time to train once a day. He put her through runs of 11-16 miles on weekdays to, as he puts it, “reinforce the physiological benefits of the long run.” Her weekend runs ranged from 17-21 miles to improve endurance. With workouts like these, Chinea said she was confident of hitting her target time.

“I’m taking all of the hills into account this time,” she said before the race. “I can’t go as fast as I want to, though.”

Another factor separating her from other runners is her relaxed demeanor and lighthearted remarks when reminded celebrities will participate in the race. A major threat to her come race day, Chinea said, was comedian Drew Carey who has slimmed down in recent years and has taken up running.

“His half-marathon time is getting faster,” she said. “It’s getting to the point where I might say, ‘Drew Carey beat me in a marathon.’”

The thought of losing to Carey should have been motivation enough but was not the driving force behind Chinea’s second Boston Marathon. She ran as a part of the Hall Steps Foundation team, started by American marathon record holder Ryan Hall and his wife. The foundation puts together a team to run each major marathon and raise money for different causes. In the past, money has gone toward a mentorship program in Oregon for homeless youths to building wells in Kenya.

A follower of Hall’s on Twitter, Chinea responded immediately to a tweet asking followers to be part of this year’s team. She relished her opportunity with the team to help the foundation as best she can.

“We are just fighting poverty step by step,” she said. “Nobody is going to tackle that big goal, but each bit counts.”

Helping the cause are packages of chips Chinea sells on campus to help raise money for the foundation along with the website crowdrise.com/crystalchinea, where anyone is free to donate. A Chili’s restaurant near her home hosted a night where it donated 10 percent of the customers’ bills to the foundation, raising more than $300. She is doing everything she can to raise money for  a good cause.

It is that philanthropic attitude that separated her from many of the other runners in Boston, and she cites Hall as an inspiration and hopes to emulate him in the way he gives to those less fortunate.

“He bases his training off of his faith, and he’s not obsessed with running,” she said. “It’s something he’s good at that he uses to help others, and I hope I do the same.”

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