First she claimed two NCAA national championships in the indoor 5,000-meter run and the outdoor 10,000 meters as a student-athlete at the University of La Verne.
Then she competed in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials on February 13. Lenore Moreno finished 13th out of 149 runners with a time of 2 hours, 39 minutes, 38 seconds. Although she didn’t make the team, the West Covina native says it was an unforgettable experience.
“I don’t think I’ve ever experienced so many emotions at once, but the most exciting part was being able to be in the same race as all the tremendous women that have inspired me every day since I started running,” Moreno said. “I have to admit I was completely star struck in the holding room prior to the race start.”
Despite her incredible finish, Moreno says she thought she had closed the book on her competitive career after the NCAA National Championship in May 2014.
But her instinct was rekindled when she saw an advertisement for Disneyland’s Tinker Bell Half Marathon in May 2015. She signed up and did what she does best, flying by her competition in a record time to win the race.
“That race completely changed my mindset and had me wondering if the 2016 trials were within my reach,” Moreno said. “I talked it over with (the University’s cross country coach) Bryan George and he assured me I could make the marathon standard.”
The next step was the San Diego Marathon, which took place just three weeks after the half marathon. Moreno, who had never run farther than 21 miles at one time, says she didn’t think she had a shot at meeting the qualifying standard of 2:45:00, but she once again shattered her ceiling.
Not only did she finish first among women at 2:41:39, but she also beat all but two men in the entire event and was so far ahead of the pack that she ran by herself almost the entire race.
Moreno went on to win the Long Beach Marathon in October before hitting the final stretch of preparation for the trials. She never thought she would outperform her seed by 117 places.
“If someone had told me that prior to the race, I would have just laughed,” Moreno said of her leap. “I was focusing on passing one runner at a time and wasn’t aware of my place until after I was coming down the last stretch. I honestly thought it was a mistake and couldn’t believe it.”
Before the race, Moreno looked at the trials as her last competitive race but her outstanding finish might have her thinking twice.
“It leaves me thinking of how much more I could improve,” Moreno said. “Running is a huge passion of mine and it will be very hard to just delete that from my life…I haven’t really made any decisions on whether I want to continue running competitively just yet.”
If she does give it one more go in 2020, no one will count her out.