Jorge Maravilla is the fastest-returning local to The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships, having finished fourth last year. In this interview, watch Jorge talk about his 2016 marathon-training season, how he’s trained for his weaknesses since last year’s TNF 50, and what he thinks about the development of the local trail running community over the last couple of years.
By the way, Jorge’s interview is part of a pre-race men’s interview show. Check it out!
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Jorge Maravilla Pre-2016 The North Face EC 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar-Dylan Bowman: Good morning. This is Dylan Bowman of iRunFar.
iRunFar-Meghan Hicks: I’m Meghan Hicks of iRunFar.
iRF-Bowman: We’re here with our great friend and the General Manager of San Francisco Running Company, Jorge Maravilla. Good morning, Jorge.
Jorge Maravilla: Good morning.
iRF-Hicks: Welcome to your shop.
iRF-Bowman: Thank you for opening your doors to us.
Maravilla: Yeah, of course. Welcome to you guys. Glad to have you.
iRF-Bowman: You are the returning fourth-place finisher from last year. You’ve run the race a number of times. That was your best finish. What do you think going into this year? You haven’t raced a ton of ultras. What’s going through your head as you return to trail running?
Maravilla: Thank you. Last year was the best performance I’ve had to date. I think going into it this year, I’ve focused a little bit more on actually covering the terrain and covering the course whereas in years past, I didn’t draw so much focus on that.
iRF-Hicks: You mean you’re actually training on the course?
Maravilla: Yeah, on sections of the course and getting a little bit more intimate with the course as opposed to, Oh, I live here and I run immediately accessible here in the Headlands, and not covering so much of the far side, partially because of my life and everything that I have to balance out. But having the opportunity to do that a little bit more going into this year and trusting the experience that I’ve had this year with the little bit of variety have given me a little bit of confidence with where I am. I feel good going into it.
iRF-Hicks: You mentioned life balance. I want to ask you about that. You know, you’re pushing into your late thirties now; you’ve been around the block a couple times. You have a family. You have a real job. Yet tomorrow you’re going to be competing against people who bring a world of different experiences, younger, not quite in your stage of life, haven’t quite been around the block a couple times. What’s it like trying to train at a high level and trying to compete with 24, 25 year olds but try to have what you want to have in your life right now?
Maravilla: I think it’s a valid, good question. I think personally it inspires me. I think part of it is because when I got into this sport, I looked at people that were inspiring me, and I think some of those people were of older age than what I was at the time, individuals that are still a part of my life and friends now that I look up to. And through my experience, I feel that age is just a number, to be honest.
iRF-Hicks: ”I’m going to tell myself all day today and tomorrow.”
Maravilla: Up until whenever… up until the clock tells me so. To be honest, I feel like I’ve yet to run as fast as I’m fully capable of in all distances whether it is a 10k, half marathon, marathon, or executing a 50 miler. I think this new generation of younger mountain ultrarunners coming in is great for the sport. I look at them not as the 24, 25 year-old, but, Great, that’s another competitor and another member hopefully long-term contributor to the sport and to the community. I respect them. I respect where they come from. I admire where they come from. I think the 50-mile distance can be the equilibrium of that speed and the experience perhaps myself and others have.
iRF-Hicks: You should be an iRunFar interviewer.
Maravilla: Well, you know, iRunFar en Español! I’m open to that.
iRF-Bowman: You talked a little bit about the variety you’ve had this year. You started the season at Way Too Cool which is of course a Northern California classic. You were second there behind David Roche. You had a great race. Then you transitioned and focused on mainly road racing for most of the year with the ambition of potentially making the El Salvadorian Olympic Team. I think it’s a great story. Obviously I know a good amount about it, but I think the viewers of iRunFar would find it interesting to know a little bit more about what motivated that chase for the Olympics and how that opportunity came about.
Maravilla: Yeah, it was a surprise inquiry to me. Honestly, I was contacted by the Olympic Committee from El Salvador. For those who don’t know, I was born in El Salvador, and I came to this country when I was two years old. I have dual citizenship for both El Salvador and the U.S. thankfully.
iRF-Hicks: Is that because you want to go back in January?
Maravilla: No, I’m just thankful to have that opportunity, and that’s certainly a longer story in and of itself. I was reached out to by the Olympic Committee, which was a complete shocker to me. They gave me a very short notice in terms of how I understand marathon training now. Essentially, about 10 weeks of training where they said, Hey, the IAAF standard is 2:19, which here in the U.S. we know as the standard for qualifying for the [Olympic Marathon] Trials, which always has kind of been a goal of mine. Then to think of that time as achievable not only for the Olympic Trials but for the actual Olympic representation of my birth country is pretty honestly emotionally overwhelming for me. It took me probably two to three weeks to even wrap my head around the thought and also change the direction of my year and what I wanted to do. I honestly don’t know the world of training for a marathon as I’d never trained specifically for one even though I’ve run one before. So I hired a coach, Joe Puleo, and Joe was fantastic in training me up for it and gaining confidence and tap into an ability I wasn’t aware that I had, and I gave it a shot.
iRF-Bowman: You targeted a race in Australia to go for the 2:19. You ended up running 2:21, which was an enormous PR. You fell a little bit short of the 2:19, but how was the whole experience? Were you disappointed, or were you overwhelmed with how much you managed to take off your PR? Are you hungry to continue to chase that goal?
Maravilla: There was obviously a little disappointment with not achieving it, but not very much because it was more than anything a huge PR. I understood that the process to achieve that was short training.
iRF-Bowman: How much did you take off of your PR?
Maravilla: Five minutes which was also—I always feel like I’ve got to say this—my PR previously was a 2:26, which was also two weeks after Lake Sonoma [50 Mile] on a very hilly and great course down in the Central Coast, but yeah, more than anything it made me super hungry. Honestly, as I’m trying to develop and evolve my 2017 race calendar, I also have in mind what is that going to do for 2018 and my ambitions and goals from there and beyond. The 2:19 is still very much on the top of my priorities if not to the top. As soon as that window opens up again, I’m going to do my best to achieve it while I’m still young and at my youngest capacity.
iRF-Hicks: While we are still young.
Maravilla: It’s still very much a desire for me. It goes without saying, just to even attempt it again and to even think about the possibility of Tokyo 2020 is very intriguing. It’s a world of effort, but I’m going to try to get it absolutely.
iRF-Bowman: I’ll come with you.
iRF-Hicks: ”Put me in your bag. I’m very tall and need a big bag.”
Maravilla: After we’ll just go do Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji.
iRF-Bowman: Yeah, that’s perfect.
iRF-Hicks: Naturally. I want to ask you a few questions about tomorrow. You’re back at TNF 50. You’re a many-time finisher and many times in the top 10 now. Last year was your best finish. From the outside looking in, your run looked textbook from start to finish. Where are you at mentally coming back this year from that? Are you thinking, I can run a more perfect day still? If I can do the same as last year, I’m happy? How do you think you improve upon a really great day?
Maravilla: Thank you. I feel like I definitely can improve. I think it’s because I’ve worked harder in my training. I’ve built a little more mental confidence. I’m very fortunate in the position that I’m in in terms of being able to train in such an amazing training backyard that happens to be our race course but also to be surrounded by an incredible community of people that inspire me, that come in through these doors as well as fellow world-class competitors in our area like Dylan and Alex Varner and a remarkable number of members in the community that are incredible athletes that… I think we all inspire each other. To be honest, it wasn’t too long ago when I was out on a Saturday morning group run and I asked Dylan, “Where do you think I can do better?” Listening to him is just words of wisdom from someone I admire and look up to who is also a fellow competitor that I respect greatly, to hear him confirm to me what I know I really need to work on… “Hey, you should work on your climbing. You should really do this.” I think a large part of last year, we ran a good portion together even though we weren’t necessarily immediately next to each other, so I think he got a good gauge of what my first 25, 26 miles of race effort was. Going back and looking at that and seeing where did I do well and where did I not and just even talking again to Alex Varner and being like, “You know what, tomorrow, there’s a lot of great athletes, but it’s going to be a matter of taking those calculated risks and fully owning them without any hesitation.”
iRF-Hicks: Okay, so you’re going to take risks tomorrow?
Maravilla: Yeah, because I choose to, and I want to.
iRF-Hicks: And just try it?
Maravilla: And try it. I think generally I try to run conservatively and enjoy and embrace the whole challenge and effort, and by default it turns out to be a good result, but I think I need to be a little more aggressive and trust my training and my ability to trust it and recognize that it’s going to hurt regardless, so why not just embrace that pain and take a calculated risk and run with these young lads.
iRF-Hicks: Sorry about that. We are the same age. I thought I could speak in parallel.
Maravilla: You can, absolutely. I will say this, honestly, back to your earlier question, it’s actually very inspiring and motivating to be like, “Yep, I’m 39.”
iRF-Hicks: “C’mon, bring it, world!”
Maravilla: At Way Too Cool with David Roche at the finish, he was surprised and like, “Wow, Jorge, you’re so great! You’re how old?!”
iRF-Hicks: ”You’re so great, and you’re so old?”
Maravilla: He was really surprised. “You’re 38? Wow, okay.” It’s something gratifying to try to line up against younger guys that are a decade younger.
iRF-Bowman: Speaking of a decade, I went back and looked, and it looks like you’ve been running this race for nearly a decade. It looks like you have three 50k finishes and five 50-mile finishes. This will be your ninth run here at The North Face Endurance Challenge.
Maravilla: Yeah, I’ve actually only missed one year.
iRF-Bowman: Tell me, since you haven’t run a ton of ultras this years—I think you’ve only run Way Too Cool and [Tamalpa] Headlands—do you think that leaves you more fresh coming into this year’s competition? Do you think that might be an advantage you have over guys that may have raced a lot more ultras than you?
Maravilla: I think so. I think fresh in my mind and fresh physically is how I feel regardless of the rest of the field. Knowing where the rest of the field and what they’ve done this season, because I’m a fan of the sport, I feel like yeah, I’m fresh. More than anything, part of those calculated risks that I talk about, is that I’m very hungry to go and compete and to draw hopefully the best out of myself that we all will do for each other. Yeah, there is that element of that I feel like my season is just starting. I’m very anxious to go out and race.
iRF-Bowman: I think having a ton of experience on the course and being fresh and being hungry is kind for the winning recipe.
iRF-Hicks: It’s a really great thing for December, too. There’s not a lot of people who feel fresh in December, let’s be honest. Awesome. Best of luck to you tomorrow.
Maravilla: Thank you.
iRF-Bowman: One more thing—like I said, Jorge is the General Manager of the San Francisco Running Company. Again, thank you for letting us in the store to do this show for the last couple of days.
Maravilla: Of course.
iRF-Bowman: Maybe a couple words about what it’s meant to be part of the store and seeing it from opening day to what it is now.
Maravilla: It’s hard to express in words, to be honest, because Brett [Rivers] reached out to me knowing I previously had running-industry experience and managing a shop. It’s been something that, to see what we talked about and perhaps envisioned without really understanding what would come about, our focus from day one, I remember specifically talking to Brett on the phone, pulling the trigger, and saying, “Yes, I’ll come on board, and I’ll help build this. Let’s do what we can. And number one, let’s focus on community, strictly and solely, and the second was, we’re going to put specialty in ‘run specialty.’ Period. That’s all we’re going to do, Brett. Everything else will come.” To see that flourish and continue to grow and continue to flourish has been amazing and beyond what I think any of us would have imagined. To see that community evolve and to see people grow and develop from the shop, there are an incredible number of athletes who are now evolved and grown from this that will be racing on Saturday as well, and people who really got into trail running… I think that’s really exciting to be a small contributor to that.
iRF-Bowman: 100%. Thanks again for all you do for our community, and we’re psyched to see you race.
iRF-Hicks: We’re psyched to see you race.
Maravilla: I’ll try to still smile while I’m out there.