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Rodriguez's dream ends as training goes south 2

Not every story about running comes with a happy ending.

Victoria Rodriguez's year-long hopes to qualify for the Olympic Games came to an unfortunate ending in late March. The ex-Buffalo resident dreamed of running the marathon for her native Argentina, but events got in the way of a qualifying attempt.

The story starts about a year ago. Rodriguez was living in Western New York when she took part in the Boston Marathon. She was the fastest woman from this area, finishing in 2:58.17.

At that point, the Olympics came into focus. Rodriguez needed a better time to have a chance to qualify for Argentina's team in London.

"Here everything is structured from the Empire State Games to the Olympic trials," said Glenn Kaifas, Rodriguez's trainer who is based in North Buffalo. "In Argentina, it's a lot more loose. They saw the 2:58 marathon and saw that she could break in to the list of the top bunch of athletes and maybe make a run at the Olympics."

The next step for Rodriguez was a fall trip to Toronto for another marathon, hoping to reduce her Boston time up to 15 minutes. The marathon, and the weather, are unpredictable.

"She ran into 40 mile-an-hour winds, and had blisters from 10 miles on," Kaifas said. "She ran a 2:53 and PR'd [set a personal record] by five minutes. Without the 40 mile-per-hour winds, she had the fitness to run a 2:43. She was right where she needed to be."

All was not lost. The details of Rodriguez's Toronto run were told to Argentina's Olympic federation, which opted to give Rodriguez a chance to qualify along with six other runners. The Rotterdam Marathon (Netherlands) was designated as the nation's Olympic trial, as it is a very fast course and thus could help more runners meet the standards to qualify for the Games.

In the middle of all of this, Rodriguez decided it was time to head back to Argentina. She spent some time there around the holidays, and then moved to the Southern Hemisphere nation.

"It was a personal decision," she said. "It's mostly because I needed to be closer to my family. It was bad timing to do this, but that happens. I was away from family for 12 years; it was time to come back."

The move forced Rodriguez's training pattern to change. It was summer in Argentina, so she had to worry about 98-degree heat instead of cold. Rodriguez and Kaifas started working on a virtual basis as she geared up for the April 15 race in Rotterdam.

The duo found out that training in a new land came with complications.

"Day after day, Victoria would head out at sunrise to train," Kaifas said. "Buenos Aires isn't the safest place in the world for a girl to run alone. The temperature would already be in the mid-90s and very humid. In Buffalo, when the weather turns so bad to train, we always have the option to use a treadmill. When Victoria looked for a treadmill, she found a gym with one treadmill and it was coin-operated.

"On a couple of the cooler days when she was able to get in her runs, she was followed and sometimes chased by the wild dogs that roam the streets. There are no bike paths, parks or trails or tracks for someone to run. One day she was even attacked by a swarm of bees."

Rodriguez could run only a few times a week, and the quality of her training suffered. It wasn't like Buffalo; she didn't have an All-America training partner in Jennifer Koeppel-Acker, face-to-face sessions with a trainer, and the support of a community that celebrates the sport.

About a week ago, a very disappointed Rodriguez withdrew from the Rotterdam Marathon and the trials. She'll have to wait a long time to see if she even gets another chance like this one.

"Every day that went by we realized that the dream was slipping away," Kaifas said. "To pull out was a very hard decision for her The experience has shown her that her running success was a credit to the support and lifestyle of our community."


Race calendar

*Bunny Hop 5K, 1 Legion Drive in East Aurora, 9 a.m. Saturday, 572-1777.

*Young Life Dyngus Day Dash, 5K, S 4999 McKinley Parkway in Hamburg, 9 a.m. April 14, 830-7852.

*Nick Orrange Run, 5K, Baird Point at UB's North Campus, 9:30 a.m. April 15.

*Canisius College Shoes for the Shelter (News' Runner of the Year race), 5K, Koessler Athletic Center, noon April 15, 888-2977.