Juan Acevedo: Getting Fast and Faster
If there was a clear, slam dunk, no-doubt-about-it honoree at last month’s ARR Annual Meeting, it had to be Juan Acevedo, recipient of the club’s Great Strides Award for 2022. Plenty of other ARR members progressed impressively over the past year, but Juan was way out in front.
Born in El Salvador, Juan grew up near Santa Ana, the country’s second-largest city (population 375,000) situated approximately 20 miles east of the Guatemala border. He spent a lot of time outdoors as a child and especially enjoyed long hikes in the mountains with his mother. In 2003, at the age of 17, Juan moved to Athens to join his older brother and sister in living with his father, who had left El Salvador in 1998.
Fast forward to 2016, when first Juan participated in a YMCA boot camp. There wasn’t much running involved, but the following year a few of his boot camp friends persuaded him to run AthHalf. It would be his first race at any distance, and AthHalf 2017 was definitely a struggle. Juan’s training was inadequate and he started out too fast, but he managed to finish in 2:03:34. “My lower back was hurting so bad, and I had giant blisters on both feet,” he recalls with a pained expression. Better prepared in 2018, Juan trimmed his time by almost 20 minutes with a 1:44:31 and then followed that with a 1:41:20 in 2019. Running had become a passion.
A regular at Coach Al’s Wednesday morning track workouts for the past couple of years, Juan credits the speedwork with helping him feel more comfortable and efficient at all distances, leading to better race performances. “The Wednesday morning track sessions are all the better with Juan’s presence. It really has been a pleasure to witness his progression (watch out he has much more in the tank) and yes Juan is a great guy as well! Juan works hard but always brings a great attitude and a big smile to the workout.” But the 5:30 a.m. sessions aren’t easy. “The track, it hurts too much,” Juan says with a smile. And yet, the hard work paid off with a 1:38:14 at AthHalf in 2021, almost two minutes per mile better than Juan’s first race four years earlier.
And then last year Juan absolutely pulled out all the stops. Determined to qualify for ARR’s Racing Team, he accomplished his goal with room to spare by running a 5:18.7 at Milledge Mile. Equally impressive was his 1:25:04 19th-place finish at AthHalf. In that race, he went through 10K in 38:58, a personal best for the distance.
Juan values all the friendships he’s made as an ARR member as much if not more than his athletic achievements. “I’ve made a lot of friends,” he says. “It’s really cool.” He’d like to see more Latinos join the club but is pleased that interest in running has picked up among Athenians with Central American roots. And the example he’s set has been key to that.
On March 4th Juan will make his marathon debut in Albany. Although he says enjoying his first 26.2 miler is the top priority, he’ll be taking aim at a sub-3:00 finish. Sounds like a probable outcome!
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