Marathon runner sets sights on 2016 Olympics

When the leaders hit Great Highway for the home stretch of Feb. 5’s Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon, one runner will be easy to spot.

Chris Mocko carries more cargo than the other elite competitors.

“In terms of being one of the heavier runners, I’m a much larger engine than the competition,” said Mocko, a 6-foot-3, 170-pounder who will be sporting his trademark bright red headband. “Most runners are sporting a V-6 engine, and I’m a V-12 Hemi with premium gas.”

The scale tipped 170 after the 2011 Napa Valley Marathon, where Mocko’s winner’s prize included receiving his weight in the region’s top-quality wines.

“Immediately following the race, I used that time to put on as much weight as I could,” Mocko said. “I put on 10 pounds in water and food weight and stuffed my jacket full of stuff.”

Does the 25-year-old resident of San Francisco’s Lower Haight neighborhood regret his gluttony?

“Well, I’ve had a real tough time returning to normal wines,” Mocko said with a laugh.

Running 10-15 miles each morning before putting in a 12-hour work day leaves the Stanford graduate with little time for wine drinking; hence, he’s given away much of his winning booty.

On weekends, Mocko’s training continues with a 25-mile run on one of the days and an “easy” 15 miles the other.

Steeplechase was his event as a member of the Stanford track and field team. Mocko’s final year of eligibility, while completing a master’s degree in management science and engineering, he qualified for the national championships in cross country, as well as in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Qualifying for the marathon in the 2016 Olympics is a long-term goal. His time of 2 hours, 23 minutes in the San Diego Marathon was only 4 minutes off the current qualifying time for the Olympic trials.

A 65-minute half marathon time would also be acceptable under the current qualification guidelines. And, a 65-minute time in the Kaiser Half Marathon would shave a minute from Armen Vartanian’s winning time in last year’s race.

Mocko, though, considers the half more challenging than the full marathon distance.

“I’ve done a handful of half marathons,” Mocko said. “None of them have gone according to plan. When I was out of shape, I ended up doing quite well. When I was in fantastic shape, I ended up doing poorly.”

The issue is with the pace. In the 13.1-miler, a runner may burn himself out with too much speed.

“The half is really about pushing yourself from the gun,” Mocko said. “The marathon is about surviving the first 20 miles and having enough energy to the last.”

Off and running

WHAT: 29th annual Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon and 5K Fun Run

WHEN: Feb. 5, 8 a.m.

STARTING LINE: Golden Gate Park/JFK Drive, east of Stow Lake

FINISH LINE: Martin Luther King Drive near Great Highway

PRESENTED BY: Pamakid Runners Club,


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