Ruben Sanca is on a mission.
Clearly the most talented runner in the Merrimack Valley, the 27-year-old Whirlaway Racing Team star from Lowell has his sights on running a 2:18 marathon, and the sooner the better.
A 2:18-flat would be a personal best marathon time for Sanca, who ran a 2:18:43 in Rotterdam in 2011 and a 2:19:05 as the 21st finisher in last year’s Boston Marathon. But a PR is the least of his reasons why he’s focusing on 2:18.
A native of Cape Verde, who came to the United States when he was 12 and now has dual citizenship, Sanca would like to break 2:18, which is the Olympic marathon qualifying time, so that he can compete for Cape Verde in the 2016 Olympics.
Sanca competed for Cape Verde at the 2012 London Olympics in the 5,000 meters and a return to the Olympics would be precious.
“I really want to get the standard,” said Sanca, a four-time All-American at UMass Lowell. “It’d be a big thing for Cape Verde — no one has ever done it. Track is starting to develop there and a lot of people look up to me.”
Sanca holds the UMass Lowell indoor school record in the 5,000 meters, with a 13:56, and clearly has speed. But his personal coach, UMass Lowell’s Gary Gardner, said years ago that the marathon would be Sanca’s best event, and he agrees.
“The marathon fits me better,” said Sanca. “I have decent speed in the 5,000, but not world-class. I can be more competitive in the marathon. It’s the kind of race where if you do the work, do the proper training, you can keep moving up.”
Sanca, who is employed as the Business Manager of Student Affairs at UMass Lowell, certainly isn’t afraid of doing the work, and whatever training is necessary, but he’s had to overcome obstacles along the way.