Saturday, January 01, 2005

GATO PROFILE: Freddie Perez

GATO PROFILE: Freddie Perez

Freddie Perez remembers San Fernando when there were more orange groves than cars and his father drove a tractor next to a place that raised thorough bred horses. "I still remember some of the horses' names. There was one called Cholo and another called Sundance. We where surrounded by trees and I would often gather wood for outside cooking." From age two to the age of 9, Freddie's home was a hayloft and a saddle room.

The eldest of three bothers and a sister, Freddie had to bear the most responsibility of meeting the every day chores that come with country living. But Freddie was restless and active. He remembers being tied down to a tree because "I was too travieso". Conflicting with his competitive and energetic spirit, his parents prohibited him in engaging in after school sports. "There was little league and other things but I had to go home" said Freddie. "Sometimes I would lie to my mother that I got in trouble and had to stay after school just to so I could play sports. I would get a whipping but I got to play!" laughed Freddie.

By middle school he was showing his interest in running. He won several ribbons in the 50 and 100 yard dash. A coach once wrote in Freddie's year book "The way you run the bases, I'll be looking for your name in the record books."

High school sports interested him a lot but he was too short for basketball and too small for football. But this didn't mean that he wasn't tough. "I don't know what I said to upsetthis huge football center but he came after me. I beat him up and gave him a black eye. After this the football coach wanted to recruit me" said Freddie. By the 10th grade he decided to joincross country and his interest in running soared. He was not the front runner but he managed to train hard enough to become their fourth man. In 1956 they won the regional cross country championships. Looking back to the 1954, Freddie still remembers watching Roger Bannister break the 4 minute barrier in the mile. This event had a lasting effect on Freddie, inspiring him to continueto improve his running.

After high school Freddie trained only part of the year in anticipation of the San Fernando Mission Run. "Then I started to pick up race applications and started to run more often.But in those days if you ran the streets some people would holler at you and some would try to run you over!" exclaimed Freddie. That is when Freddie decided to run the hills and mountains surrounding San Fernando. "But as much as I ran, I could not break 40 minutes in the 10k. Then I started to do farklet style training and my times improved", said Freddie.

Another event that inspired Freddie was watching Frank Shorter win the 1974 Olympic marathon. "By winning the marathon, Frank Shorter started the running craze and running became more popular in the United States." By 1976 Freddie got together with his compadre Pedro Ponce, his cousin Pepe Perez and Nacho Fonseca. He was soon was running 30 mile runs at Mt. Wilson on Saturdays to train for the Western States 100. He would occasionally run with Jim Pellon who came in 2nd place 5 times. Freddie never ran the 100 mile run but his training made him stronger. He later joined a group of runners who worked for General Motors in Van Nuys. Because Freddie did not work for General Motors, he was denied a uniform. Freddie decided to organize what would become the Wild Mountain Runners.

When asked how he came up with the club name, Freddie recalls running Condor Peak and Little Tujunga trials. As he ran by the Wild Life Way Station, he could hear the roar of the mountain lions. But one day remains prominent in his mind. "As I was running this trail, my foot prints all of a sudden came upon the prints of a mountain lion. Our path met and the lion's prints followed mine until his paw prints disappeared into the brush." His contact with the mountain lion inspired Freddie to come up with the club name.

As the club has grown, so has Freddie's running talents. At 65 year of age, his running abilities seem to improve with age. At the 2005 Santa Clarita Marathon, Freddie ran an amazing 3:26! His best marathon was in 1983 when he ran 2:46:53 at the Bakersfield Marathon. He has run every Los Angeles Marathon and is a member of the prestigious Legacy Runners. His best LA Marathon time is 2:55. Freddie likes to quote a famous runner who said "Running changes a person and a marathon changes your life." How true this is.

Freddie remembers many of his races but his most memorable run was the 1988 Lake Isabella 38.6 ultra marathon which he won in 5:06. The Lake Isabella captures the essence and spirit of Freddie's personality. He challenged a very grueling run with the intent of winning it. Each time he would come up short but he never gave up. He kept trying. He quotes Carlos Lopez of Portugal who won the 1984 Olympic Marathon who said "The more you run, the better you run". Indeed, this is what Freddie is all about. Never give up and keep trying.

Freddie lives in Sylmar, California and is happily married to his lovely wife Arcelia. He has three adult children and hopes to someday have grandchildren who may someday be Wild Mountain Runners. He envisions the Wild Mountain Runner club as a club that can inspire young runners because as Freddie likes to say "Running changes your life".


Blogger tonybak said...

I knew you were a runner but I was unaware of your accomplishments. You are inspirational.
Your 2nd cuz,

3:44 PM

Blogger Deanna P said...

Tio Fred,
You are not only a inspiration but you are truly my kids hero may you always be a true inspiration to anyone who has the honor of crossing your path may God Bless You Always.
Your niece,
Deanna Perez

6:04 PM

Blogger Gloria said...

Brother Freddie,
I am truly blessed to have you as my big brother I am so proud of what you have accomplished in your life,not with just your life but with your running I hope that some day one of my grandchildren will have the honor running along side with you May God bless You and be by your side always.
Your Sister,
Gloria Perez

6:12 PM


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