Julio Hernandez often met his wife Iglandini Gonzales at road races in Colombia.
They couldn't miss each other as they usually were the first male and female finishers.
"We were always on the podium together," said Hernandez, an accountant for a publishing house in Bogota.
Now they're going to Atlanta together.
Hernandez, 38, and Gonzales, 31, made a strong showing for their country at Sunday's 11th Los Angeles Marathon, finishing third and fourth in their respective divisions.
Most important, they ran fast enough to satisfy their national Olympic committee and earn berths to the Summer Olympics.
Hernandez easily surpassed the general qualifying standard of 2 hours 16 minutes with a time of 2:14:50 as two other Latinos, Jose Luis Molina of Costa Rica and Alfredo Vigueras of Mexico, finished first and second.
Gonzales barely missed the Olympic standard of 2:35 with a time of 2:35.19, but set a national record. Her coach, Carlos Pilo Godoy of La Crescenta, said she is all but assured of a spot in Atlanta.
The Colombian couple were among a handful of the 19,284 participants racing Sunday for a chance to represent their countries this summer.
Those Olympic trials injected welcome interest into a marathon lacking name runners.
"This is a perfect time [for a trials]," said John Tope, the marathon's elite athlete coordinator. "You have enough time to recover and build back up."
Marcos Juarez of Quetzalteuaugo, Guatemala, has a lot of time after failing to make his country's Olympic team with an 11th-place finish in 2:20.26.
"I'm 22," he said. "Next time."
Competitors using Los Angeles as a springboard to Atlanta had many little triumphs and tragedies to report after they completed the hilly, 26.2-mile course on a cool, gray day.
But the complicated nature of many countries' marathon selection process left some wondering where they stood.
Unlike the U.S. system in which one race determines the three qualifiers, some countries use time standards or yearly performances. Most of the runners trying to impress their sports committees Sunday needed certain times to be considered.
"It's always, times, times, times, I wish it was who wins," said Eddy Hellebuyck of Belgium, the race's rabbit who dropped out halfway through the course.
Hellebuyck might have been talking about Lucia Rendon of Mexico, who finished second to women's runaway winner Lyubov Klochko of the Ukraine.
She needed to break 2:35 to become her country's third representative because two other Mexican women ran 2:31 in Houston this year. Rendon finished in 2:34.55, but is not assured a place yet. If a compatriot runs faster this spring at Boston, London or Rotterdam, then Rendon will be out.
Vigueras, who will become a U.S. citizen March 28, already knew he was out although finishing with an impressive 2:13.26. He had failed to make the qualifying standard by 18 seconds and was not invited to the Mexican men's trials Sunday in Ixtapa.
He also was ineligible to compete in the U.S. trials in Charlotte, N.C., last month because his interview with American immigration officers was three days after the race.
For Olga Kosolapova of the Ukraine, the problem was not with immigration but acclimation.
Kosolapova, 31, and three teammates arrived in Los Angeles two days before the race and were not used to the heat and time change.
"It was minus-10 degrees [centigrade] in Kiev," said Kosolapova, who finished 11th in 2:48.46. "And we want to sleep now. At 4 a.m. we want to be awake."
The Ukrainians raced in Southern California because they were told the climate resembled Atlanta's, although someone forgot to mention the humidity. The Olympic marathon this summer is expected to be held in extreme humidity, quite different to Los Angeles' dry heat.
Whatever the weather, Hernandez and Gonzales plan to enjoy Atlanta.
After all, they train together so they might as well race together.