My Favorite Things: Brenda Martinez

Brenda Martinez won the 800m at the Diamond League meet in London this past summer. Photo:

The Californian reveals her go-to workout, recovery meal, and more.

Brenda Martinez may be a bright new star in the world of elite middle-distance racing, but she hasn’t let that get in the way of her eagerness to give back to her community.

The weekend after she qualified for this past summer’s world championships in the 800-meter run by finishing second at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, 25-year-old Martinez hosted a running camp in Big Bear, Calif., for five athletes who had won an essay-writing contest, one of whom she will continue to personally mentor.

RELATED: 5 Questions With Brenda Martinez

“I really feel that it’s important to give back,” says Martinez, a Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., native and University of California, Riverside alum, where she was an All-American 1500m runner. “Even when I was in high school, we didn’t have anything like [a running camp] — if I can start something and continue it every year, make it bigger and maybe have more girls come up, it’d be really fun.”

Part of the inspiration for the camp came from her coach, Joe Vigil, known throughout the distance-running community as the brains behind 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist Deena Kastor and the storied Adams State University cross-country team in Colorado. “Coach obviously gave me the encouragement to do the camp,” Martinez says.

Vigil also gave Martinez a big boost to her career. After they started working together — Vigil coaches Martinez remotely from his home in Arizona — she popped some huge finishes and PRs, such as the blistering 1:58.18 800m time she ran at the Prefontaine Classic in June and a bronze medal at this past summer’s world championships in Moscow.

“I’m just very grateful that he gave me the opportunity to work with him, and I try to be 100 percent with him every day because he is helping me,” Martinez says. “I try not to take anything for granted.”

Because Vigil lives in Arizona, Martinez’s husband, Carlos Handler, facilitates her workouts and serves as Vigil’s eyes and ears. The two met through the running community while Martinez was in college, although she says Handler doesn’t get in much running these days. “He used to run — he kind of sacrifices running to help me,” she says, laughing.

In addition to helping out with his wife’s training, Handler also coaches a few guys who serve as training partners for Martinez. They are runners who are knocking on the door of elite status and a few junior college kids — Martinez says Handler is helping the kids secure college scholarships.

While she is focusing on middle-distance racing these days, Martinez is open to the idea of moving up in distance and is keeping the door open for anything from the 1,500 to the 10,000 at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. “We’re going to take it one year at a time,” she says.

RELATED: Martinez Wins Bronze At Worlds

Here Are A Few Of Her Favorite Things

Favorite Training Shoe: New Balance 880v3.

Favorite post-race meal: A burger and fries, sometimes with soda. “If it’s in California, it’s most likely one from In-N-Out.”

Favorite running brand: New Balance. “New Balance has so many outfits — I try out every single one of them, and their apparel is getting better ever year.”

Favorite piece of running gear: New Balance Impact Jacket. “I just love the style of it, and it keeps me dry.”

Favorite workout: 6 x 1-mile repeats

Favorite local place to run: The bike path along the lake in Big Bear, Calif.

Favorite local place to eat: Evergreen International Restaurant, 40771 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear, Calif. “We’ve gotten to know the owner. She’s really nice, and the food is definitely really good.”

Favorite recovery fuel: Smoothies made with items such as fruits, vegetables, chia seeds and chlorophyll. “I’ve been trying a lot of different smoothies and just having fun with fruits and vegetables and lots of greens.”

This piece first appeared in the September 2013 issue of Competitor magazine.

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