Being dealt a bad hand in life can be enough to call it quits. The first runner to ever finish the DeCelle Memorial Lake Tahoe Ultra Marathon isn’t one of those people. On the surface, you would think this tale is about him running the race. Well, Diego Diaz’s story goes much deeper than just being the first to accomplish this feat. He’s a great example of someone that lives life to the fullest against all odds.
How Diego’s Running Career Started
For those that love running, the story of McFarland’s cross-country team is the stuff of legends. Diego was one of the team members that created a dynasty – nine state titles in 15 years between 1987 and 2001. This tradition is still alive and well with his brother Danny being one of the coaches of the team. Diego’s heart and love for running earned him a college scholarship, helping to keep his dream alive.
Triathlon’s Become His New Passion
Diego has always been a runner and never really considered any other sports. It wasn’t until he met some co-workers at school triathlon events that his mind was opened to the world of multi-sport activities. He could run and bike well, so the only thing he needed to learn was swimming. Why not break the monotony of running with other activities too? He became so good at them that he entered a few Ironman races. His strength was still the running aspect, so he wanted to focus on improving that time segment of the race.
Life-Altering Diagnosis… Or Was It?
While he tried to improve his race times, an illness hit him hard. The world started to spin, and he lost hearing in one ear. Flashing light began to cause dizzy spells. When Diego finally visited the doctor, he was diagnosed with Meniere's disease. The disorder is caused by the degeneration of the inner ear which made it to difficult for him to swim because of the twisting/turning of the head.
Falling In Love Again With Running
It was around that time when Diego was training to improve his long distance running that he met his now mentor Oswaldo Lopez. They were running one third of the creatively named series “Hell of a Half Marathon” and Oswaldo brought up that his buddies run long distance races of over 100 miles. After doing a bit more research, Diego decided to try it. In one of his first attempts, he ran the Lake Tahoe Ultra-Marathon race and took 3rd place. It was then that the long-distance bug bit him.
Champion Long Distance Runner
While he was good at running marathons, it was after this difficult challenge with Meniere’s Disease that Diego came to realize that races of over 100 miles was where his talents lay. So, in 2016 he set the fastest 200-mile time in the country – 43 hours & 33 minutes. That race contained over 23,000 vertical feet of climbing (taller than Denali in Alaska)!
Couldn’t Do It Without His Family
How did Diego accomplish such a massive feat? Just like an Indy Car racer, it’s all about the crew around you. Diego’s wife makes sure that he is fueled correctly with the proper nutrition while his brother covers all the logistics so that he can focus 100% on running. Running may be an individual past time, but when it comes to elite level racing, it’s a team sport.
We’re humbled to have a champion such as Diego set the bar for our DeCelle Memorial Ultra Marathon time. So, when you show up at our 2019 Lake Tahoe Relay, be sure to say “Hi” to Diego and let him know that his story inspired you… because it did for us!