Tia Martinez took a drastic detour from competitive running after a successful high school career that included a UIL cross country state championship won during her sophomore year at Carrollton’s Hebron High.
“I got lots of (recruiting) letters of interest — University of Oregon, Oregon State, University of Arkansas, University of North Texas,” said Martinez, who graduated from Hebron in 2006. “I didn’t go because I was burnt out on running and not that interested in school. I guess I have a stubborn personality, and my mom didn’t push me.”
Instead, Martinez wanted to be a wakeboarder. She moved from Carrollton to San Marcos, began practicing at the Texas Ski Ranch and even entered a few competitions.
“When I started wakeboarding that just took over my life,” said Martinez. “My attention went from distance running to wakeboarding.”
Martinez’s wakeboarding career never really took off, though, and eventually, she and her husband landed in Austin. In 2010, she gave birth to a son, and “I just decided to start running again after he was born. So I started training for a half marathon.
“Maybe I missed out on the college team environment, but I think this is the path I was supposed to take. Now, I’ve really developed a love and passion for running again, and I respect the sport a lot more than I ever did then.”
On Sunday, Martinez will compete in The Run for Water 10-mile road race as the defending women’s champion. She will be joined at the event by Austin’s David Fuentes, who topped the men’s field in 2013. The race is the second in the six-race Austin Fit Distance Challenge, which concludes with the 2015 Austin Marathon and Half Marathon.
Martinez, 26, largely jump-started her running career in 2012, when she joined Rogue Athletic Club.
“At first I didn’t think I was up to Rogue’s standards,” she said, “but it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made since high school. I’ve benefited a lot from being on the team.”
In 2013, she set a personal 10,000-meter best of 33 minutes, 15 seconds while winning at the Portland Track Classic. Her victory there in June qualified for the U.S. outdoor track and field championships in Des Moines, Iowa. Competing against the country’s top female distance runners, she finished 12th in 34:20. American 10,000-meter record-holder Shalane Flanagan took first in 31:43.
A year ago, Martinez broke the tape at The Run for the Water in 55:30, leading a group of four female runners who finished in under an hour.
“I like the 10-mile distance, and I like the Run for the Water course, because I pride myself in running hills,” Martinez said. “I know Pecos (Street) gets pretty tough. I really hammered the last section of the course last year. I would call it a tough, but fair course. The first half is hard, but the second half you can coast on home onto Cesar Chavez (Street).”