Barring a bizarre turn of events, Chris Chavez isn’t going to make the Olympic team. He knows that. He’s OK with it. It’s not why he runs.
And yet it makes his ability to qualify for the Olympic Trials marathon next year seem all the more impressive.
Many of the athletes in the elite field train full-time and quite literally run for their lives, relying on prize money and sponsorships they pick up along the way.
Not Chavez. An alumnus of Santa Monica High School, he finds time — makes time — away from his demanding job as an investment analyst at a wealth management firm in San Francisco to run as frequently and for as long as he can.
“It has to do with me liking the sport and having people around me who know I want that balance,” said Chavez, 28. “My wife is real supportive, my friends, my bosses — they understand that’s part of my life.”
It’s a part of life in which Chavez has found notable success. In 2012 he participated in the Olympic Trials in Houston, crossing the finish line in 2 hours 20 minutes 18 seconds to place 53rd out of 85 distance runners. The following year, he was eighth overall in the LA Marathon with a 2:19:20.
Chavez qualified for the 2016 trials in Los Angeles by running a personal-best 2:17:07 at the California International Marathon in Sacramento this past December. He clocked in at 2:20:04 to take 18th in his first experience at the prestigious Boston Marathon earlier this year.
“I hated seeing someone in a meeting and having them ask, ‘Oh, you run — have you run Boston?” he said. “I had always wanted to run Boston, and it lived up to expectations. The weather wasn’t great, but the crowd was awesome.”
Chavez’s running pursuit — more than a hobby, less than a career — has its roots in Santa Monica.
Growing up in Culver City while attending Will Rogers Elementary and John Adams Middle schools, he was typically the “fast kid” in every sport he played.
“He was interested in running at an early age,” said his father, Anthony. “He has the stamina to be that kind of a runner. He just picked it up on his own. … These other athletes are funded completely by private sources. All they do is run and work out. He’s running for fun.”
Chavez vividly recalls showing up at the intersection of Ocean and Montana avenues on weekend mornings before his freshman year at Samohi to prepare for varsity competition.
In high school he trained under coach Tania Fischer, running the 800-meter, mile and 2-mile events in track and learning the 3-mile distance in cross-country.
“It changed my life,” he said.
Chavez graduated from Samohi in 2004 and continued his athletic career at Cal, representing the Golden Bears in a variety of track events as well as in cross-country.
And as he entered the working world, returned to Berkeley for a master’s degree in business and landed a job with UBS, he realized how important running was to his mental health.
“You don’t want to know me when I’m not running,” he said. “I’m a competitive guy, I like to train and I got bit by the bug.”
With the help of a friend he started exploring longer distances, first 10,000 kilometers, then half-marathons and eventually the full 26.2. His first official marathon came in Chicago in 2010 — “a brutal, eye-opening experience,” he said.
Chavez has kept at it, and he’s enjoyed the sport’s camaraderie. He’s trained on racing teams, seen new cities and brushed shoulders with top-level athletes at races around the country.
His focus might shift slightly later this year: He and his wife, Jordan Frank, who met in choir at Samohi, are expecting their first child. But Chavez said his high school sweetheart is supportive of his passion.
“It makes scheduling hard, and it takes away from sleep,” he said. “But I don’t depend on running for living expenses. It’s always been a side project.”
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.