Twelve years ago Sandoval was the fastest marathoner in the U.S., quite possibly the fastest in the world. On May 24, 1980, five days after his 26th birthday, Sandoval ran to a 2:10:19 win at the Olympic marathon trials in Buffalo. Unfortunately, three months earlier President Jimmy Carter, protesting the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, announced that the U.S. would boycott the Moscow Games. East Germany's Waldemar Cierpinski won the Olympic gold in 2:11:03.
A decade passed, and Sandoval became a cardiologist and the father of five.
Next month, at the Olympic marathon trials on April 11 in Columbus, Ohio, Sandoval will try to make the team again. He will be 37. One final time he will chase the dream that has eluded him for 16 years, ever since he missed an Olympic berth by one place at the 1976 trials.
Dramatic stuff, but irrelevant here. Hospital hallways are not places for reflection. Contemplating your navel here will get you trampled. Sandoval bustles off. For the next eight hours he will examine patients, wade through voluminous files, make notes that will create more voluminous files, and have a pleasant word for everyone. He will sit three times, yawn once and pick at a piece of greasy chicken and call it lunch. Sandoval doesn't practice medicine so much as he is swept up by it. Some of the other cardiologists move about with studied importance. At 5'8" and 120 pounds, the smooth-faced Sandoval looks as if he had come to the door selling magazines and got pressed into service because the hospital was shorthanded. There is play in his manner. You half expect him to motion you close, then squirt you in the eye with the jaunty red-and-blue bow tie he's sporting.
He examines a perky, elderly woman recovering from heart surgery. She plops herself up on the examining table and immediately goes on the offensive. At her last visit to the hospital, she tells Sandoval, the nurses were wearing so much perfume she spent most of her time vomiting.
Sandoval won't be thrown by this tack.
"Have you been walking?" he asks politely.
Well, a little, she says, but she doesn't think it's fair that she has to do all this work while her neighbor smokes, eats anything he wants, does next to nothing for exercise and has no problems at all.
"Well, you just have to do the right things for yourself and ride things out."