Brenda Martinez specializes in middle distance races. She represented the USA at the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships in the 1500 meters. She also won a silver medal in the 800 meters at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, 2013.
On February 7, 2015, she set a world record in the Distance medley relay at New Balance Indoor Grand Prix.
Growing up as a child Martinez was hyperactive, and she didn’t really have it rosy. Her parents each worked two jobs to support Martinez and her two siblings. Realizing her athletic potentials, her mother enrolled her in a track and field club, taking on another job so she could pay the club’s fees.
While in the program, Martinez’s coaches realized she wasn’t great at sprinting. But she could run for a long time. That’s when Martinez, who says she was tough to beat when playing “tag” at school, became a distance runner.
Martinez had standout performances in high school, though her parents could not afford her a new pair of running shoes. “I remember when I was young and my parents couldn’t afford to buy me a new pair of running shoes, The shoes I wore to school were the same shoes I wore to practice. My father would always try to find running shoes on the clearance rack.”
Martinez went on to have an impressive college career, where she would be named All-American three times. After college, Martinez dreamed of making an Olympic team. Her dream was put on hold when two Olympic development teams rejected her.
Without a coach or a team to support her, Martinez wondered if she would have to give up on the sport she loved. Martinez and her husband, Carlos Handler, contemplated their next move. Handler decided to give up his running career to pay the rent.
Eventually, Martinez and Handler linked up with Joe Vigil, a legendary coach who believed in Martinez’s talent. Vigil wasn’t just any coach. The 86-year-old had led Adams State University to 19 national championships in cross-country. After learning that Martinez was rejected by two Olympic development teams, Vigil agreed to coach Martinez.
Under the coaching of Vigil, Martinez qualified to compete in the 2013 World Championships, where she won a bronze medal, becoming the first American woman to medal at a major championship in 25 years.