Anthony Sandoval is the eldest son of an eldest son. He was born on May 19, 1954 in Truchas, N.M., 7,622 feet up in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Sandoval's parents and grandparents lived on a small farm that has been in the family literally since time out of mind. "My grandma's grandma was born in Truchas, which has about 300 people." says Sandoval. "My father's grandfather came from Cordova, which is five miles away. Apparently there was some concern about the wisdom of letting such a distant stranger into the family."
The Sandoval familia is of Spanish and Indian descent, and the life Anthony led as a child was not markedly different from that pursued in these mountains for centuries, not decades. With his grandfather, he plowed, "holding the horses, thinking the sun would never go down." During the winter, every Saturday at dawn the family would take an old truck up the mountain to a place where pi‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬±on might be cut. "You split wood in the morning." says Sandoval. "When it's frozen the pitch is brittle. It pops the wood apart."
In the evenings, young Anthony kept the fire. "There was so much history to be absorbed after dinner, the chistes—jokes from long ago—all the talk in Spanish. In the dry summers of the old times, the town's families used to have to go separate ways, taking the sheep to the springs. Then, later, they got together and built the ditches. Now every spring the ditches must be cleared. They bring the water, the life of the land."
For generations the villagers maintained the life of 16th century Spanish peasantry, preserving or adapting customs as necessary. "There were, and are, penitentes," says Sandoval, "secret fraternities in lieu of priests. The rumors said they would reenact the way of the cross, with scourging and flagellation. I could never see their book of ritual or go in their chapel."
July 20, 1980
When Anthony was 15, it was decided by his father that he should attend high school in Los Alamos. 30 miles down the mountain, southwest across the Rio Grande and 7,300 feet up the Jemez Mountains. Los Alamos was the site of the laboratory that developed the atomic bomb. When Sandoval came to town there were nearly 500 Ph.D.s out of a population of 15,000. The high school their children attended was appropriately challenging. "It was a trial," says Sandoval. "For one thing, I had an accent you wouldn't believe."
But he also had remarkable native intelligence and a resistance to panic. "When my dad went out to fix a fence, he fixed it." Sandoval says. "And if it took a day or two, if it was rocky, he fixed it well just the same. I simply did that in school."
Weekends he returned to Truchas to help with haying or canning, adhering to the pattern of the farm. And he began cross-country running. "Running fit right in. For the Jemez Indians it's just pure joy, part of their culture," he says. Adding the matter-of-fact discipline of his own culture and a balanced, unforced stride, Sandoval quickly became very good. He won four state championships in cross-country and track.
His grades were good. After graduation he was awarded a scholarship to Stanford. "Going there was hard because I didn't have those weekly times to be back at home," he says. "That first year was painful—six whole months away."
Easing his sense of dislocation was a Stanford coed, Mary Demuth, from Los Alamos, who is now Sandoval's wife. She understood that he was moving in two worlds, with two selves. "He's still Anthony, the Anthony of the farm," she says. "The student pops in as necessary. He's lucky he has kept the Anthony part."
At Stanford, Sandoval ran well but inconsistently. Though light at 5'8", 112 pounds, he had superb natural talent. He did 1:49.5 for 800 meters, and in his senior year, 1976, won the Pac Eight 10,000 with a splendid finish over Sam Kimombwa of Washington State and Kenya. Eight days later he placed fourth in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trial in 2:14:58, seeing his good friend Don Kardong make the team in third after the two had run much of the race beside each other. This tantalizing nearness of Olympic success—especially since Kardong went on to place fourth in Montreal—led Sandoval to vow to continue running for four more years.
After graduating from Stanford, Sandoval set out to become a doctor. "I went to medicine because I could combine the two societies' goals." he says. "I could be a professional and also accepted, like my father, as a useful person who knows how to fix your car or find wood. At home there has never been a doctor."
Always the mountains steadied him. "When I was a little kid." he says. "Grandpa really loved fishing. We'd walk the high streams, and I remember him telling me up there. 'Here it is safer and more comfortable than in any city.' I remembered that in New York and San Francisco when I was applying to medical schools, and I said, 'I agree with you, Grandfather.' "
Sandoval selected the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. For two years he ran seriously only in the summers back in Truchas and Los Alamos. In September of 1978, without hard training, he finished second to fellow New Mexican Lionel Ortega in the Oregon TC marathon in Eugene. "After that." he says. "I began wondering how I was going to do both consistent training for the Olympics and medical school."
In partial solution, he joined Athletics West, which is based in Eugene. Then he spoke to the Colorado medical school dean and the curriculum committee, composed of his department heads, about cutting back on school in order to train.
"They said they'd give me as much time as I needed," he says. "Even then I wasn't sure I should do it. But the committee sent me a letter of encouragement. I thought, 'O.K., I'll take the 1980 spring quarter off.' But then I was advised to take the whole year, so I wouldn't fragment my rotation among subjects."
Unwilling to leave medicine entirely for that long, Sandoval had Dr. Clifford Zwillick set up a program of independent study. He did a research project with AW physiologist Dick Brown. Now he has begun working in the health division of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories, a job for which he will gain academic credit. "So I am in medicine," he says, "but I've got all the time in the world."
He put it to use in the summer of 1979, running with AW teammates Ortega. Kevin McCarey, Jeff Wells and John Lodwick over the high trails of New Mexico he had known as a child. "In the yellow September aspens, at 10,500 feet, the cold wind rushes over you as if you were a rock that had been there a thousand years," he says.
Thus prepared, Sandoval and Wells tied for first in last year's Oregon TC marathon in 2:10:20, with Sandoval appearing the fresher at the end. Lodwick was third in 2:10:54.
The Sandovals then moved, at the request of AW Coach Harry Johnson, to Eugene, where Anthony's training might be better supervised. Almost at once he developed plantar fasciitis, an overuse syndrome, in his left heel. In December he raced poorly in the Fukuoka, Japan marathon, a 2:19:06. He and Mary found the training environment in their new club oddly grating. Too many members seemed obsessed with running. Then, on Jan. 4, Mary came home and told Anthony she'd heard on the radio that President Carter had raised the possibility of a boycott of the Moscow Olympics.
"I said, 'He just wants to put pressure on the Russians to leave Afghanistan,' " Sandoval recalls. "I thought he'd made a list of everything he could think of, serious or not."
Then on Jan. 20, Carter set the Feb. 20 deadline while speaking on Meet the Press. "I talked with Jeff Wells," says Sandoval. " 'The clock's ticking,' he said. We'd laid our plans for the ultimate marathon, the Olympic Trials in Buffalo, May 24. As the deadline passed, the importance of that race began to erode. Then, after a time of depression, we kind of got hold of ourselves and said, 'Hey, if we stick together, the race can still mean a lot.' We had to almost build that image, that importance, back up inside ourselves. That took time."
During the gray spring, AW competitors in all events held emotional meetings to decide what the club's position and tactics should be. "I was surprised to learn of all the different points of view," says Sandoval. "Some felt they'd suffer financially if they couldn't make a name for themselves at the Games [Sandoval himself has never accepted more than bare expenses from a race promoter]. For some, like the decathletes, the Games were to be their only big event. Jeff and I were trying to get a positive statement that still reflected everybody's opposition. So much energy was going into that, that my training was falling apart. So Mary and I decided that the middle of March was the time to go back to Los Alamos."
"It is an emotional decision," said Johnson.
"Absolutely it is," said Sandoval, and went.
"I left all the pressures in Eugene," he says now. "I started working and Mary got a job as a statistician for a research group in nuclear physics, and my injury just went away. Every morning I would run the trails. I never set foot on the hard road. There is a word in Spanish—correoso—which has to do with withstanding things. In the fields, hoeing, as a child, or on morning runs through the snow, correoso builds up. Over and over, at 5:30 a.m. every day, it builds up—the conviction that I am strong and will do well."
In May, at the appointed time, Sandoval came down out of his mountains and was strong. He ran just off the pace in the Trials marathon until four miles to go. Benji Durden of Stone Mountain, Ga. led by 60 yards, having made his move at 19 miles. "It was a tactical race because it was the placings that counted," Sandoval says. Now, having secured at least second, he tested his strength, temporarily taking his pace from five minutes per mile to 4:44, and left Durden 22 seconds behind at the finish, which he reached in 2:10:19.
Two weeks later, as Sandoval and some friends and his younger brothers Louis and Peter ran nine miles along the stream in Bandelier National Monument, Anthony recounted his thoughts after the Trials. "It's harder to accept the boycott when you know it's really you who would be going to Moscow. The thing that bothers me the most is that the Moscow course is very fast."
This was said in a voice completely lacking in regret, interspersed as it was with Sandoval's commentary on passing wonders. He caressed the new green of trailside plants, calling them by their Spanish names: "Encino, the little oak, yerba buena, the wild mint. Watch out for this, it's ortiga, stinging poison ivy."
The air was dry but carried resins of anything moist with a palpable clarity. One ran through essence of cottonwood, of gooseberry, even of dust. Sweet dust, like pi‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬±on smoke.
"I probably will try again in 1984," said Sandoval, when pressed to consider the prospect. "At 26, I'm not peaked physiologically." Nor psychologically, one reflects, because people persist in keeping him from the Olympics.
"But in 1984 I'll be in residency somewhere. Maybe we'll have kids, who knows? This year seemed like the best chance. I sure wish Bill Rodgers had been in the Trials."
The stream ran into a narrow defile. Sheer, flat walls of russet-and-salmon sandstone rose out of the sandy margin. In the sidelong afternoon light, the lines and color of the stone and water and bending green were as crisp and distinct as human senses may register. The imagination soared. Here was a place to come upon mounted men, riding up the creek. Or to have a vision.
And there, cut into the rock, were the ruins, the homes and ovens and storehouses and burial chambers of the Pueb los, who lived here half a millenium ago.
The sense of presence, of continuum, was strong. Surely there were many great Indian runners. Sandoval, floating ahead, his width of torso impressive against the narrowness of his arms and legs, was a part of that long past, and a reminder that runners can compete only against the men their generations offer. Time, too, keeps the best apart.
"I've stopped thinking of the Olympics," Sandoval said as the run concluded, and he waded in the icy stream where Mary was waiting with fruit juice. "It's going to be a good summer."