Chris Chavez has made running a sacred part of his daily routine, so it’s hardly surprising to find him on the move.
But when the Santa Monica High School alumnus answers his cellphone on this particular Tuesday afternoon, he’s not covering ground on foot. Instead he’s in the car, driving to the doctor’s office for his daughter’s 4-month checkup.
“It’s involved some changed priorities, not just with running but training and everything around it,” he said. “I view running as a complement to my life, not the focus.”
Still, Chavez hasn’t given up on his athletic passion. On Feb. 13 he’ll be running in the Olympic Trials marathon in Downtown Los Angeles, an elite race featuring the best distance runners in the country.
Scheduled the day before the LA Marathon, the event helps to determine which athletes will join Team USA for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Chavez, 29, qualified for the Trials by clocking a personal-best time of 2 hours 17 minutes 7 seconds at the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December 2014.
But this won’t be the Burlingame resident’s first experience at the Olympic Trials. In 2012 he participated in the Trials in Houston, crossing the finish line in 2:20.18 to place 53rd out of 85 runners. Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, won the race in 2:09:08.
“The really cool thing is that it’s the one day every four years that every top marathoner in the U.S. shows up to race,” Chavez said. “At the Trials it’s like, ‘Everybody is here, and we’re going to sort things out.’ I want to know where I stand.”
Chavez, a former member of the track and field and cross-country programs at UC Berkeley, has added to his list of running accomplishments since graduating from college. In 2013 he was eighth overall at the LA Marathon with a 2:19.20. Last year he ran the prestigious Boston Marathon for the first time, clocking in at 2:20.04 to take 18th.
Chavez said he is mentally prepared for this year’s Trials, which will usher runners past Staples Center, LA Live, the Los Angeles Convention Center, the USC campus, Exposition Park and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“In Houston, it seemed to have a magnitude like I was out of my element,” he said. “I feel more relaxed about it now. The novelty is gone, and I know exactly what I’m going into. There are 200 guys on the line, and they’re all fast as hell.”
Even before fatherhood, running was a side project for Chavez, who works as an investment analyst at a wealth management firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. And he has further adjusted his schedule to make time for his daughter, Cassidy, who was born Oct. 2.
“It’s a new priority in my life,” he said. “There are only so many hours in the day to maximize time with her. It’s all a balance. I still run a lot, just not as much as I used to.”
Chavez said he’s grateful for the support of his wife, a fellow Samohi graduate who was then known as Jordan Frank. The two met in high school choir. He’s also looking forward to having family and friends in attendance as he runs the Olympic Trials in his home region.
He doesn’t have a specific time goal, but he’s vying for a top-40 finish.
“I work too hard at running just to accept participation as enough for me,” he said. “I’m in very good shape, I’ve matured as a racer and I’m going to lean on that to hopefully run a smart race and finish in a high place. I’m realistic: I’m not finishing in the top three. But in good conditions, I could probably run a personal best.”
As for how much longer he’ll pursue the sport in competitive settings?
“I’ll always run. That’s not going to go away,” Chavez said. “There’s no definitive ‘This is the end’ moment. Eventually I won’t be able to do it in the same capacity, but I enjoy each experience for what it is.”