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RUNNING / BARBIE LUDOVISE : Winning Puts Him in Driver’s Seat

Danny Martinez still zips around in the faded red 1972 Volkswagen bug he has had for nearly 10 years. The car has no back seat, a door that rattles open on the road and a hood that has to be wired down to prevent it from blowing open at high speeds.

Martinez, a former steeplechase standout at UC Irvine, could be cruising in style.

Martinez, 29, was awarded a $35,000 Mercedes for winning The City of San Francisco Marathon June 23. The victory--in 2 hours 15 minutes 31 seconds--took Martinez, and many other runners, by surprise.

“I thought I could run 2:16 or so, but I didn’t think that would be good enough to win,” Martinez said.

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Martinez graduated from Irvine in 1984 with a degree in psychology. He also won the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. championship in the steeplechase. But like many distance runners, Martinez, a substitute teacher, trained less after college. Regular racing became his only exercise.

“Like everyone else, I blew off the training but not the racing,” he said. “And I was doing terrible. Running 31- or 32-minute 10Ks, and they were a lot more painful than they should have been.”

Two years ago, he decided to get serious about running. He increased his mileage (he now averages 80 a week) and set a goal of qualifying for the 1992 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials April 11 at Columbus, Ohio.

Because he had run only one other marathon before this year (a 2:25 in 1987), Martinez wasn’t among the invited runners at San Francisco. He was in about sixth place until the 12-mile mark, then made a move to catch the front pack. He surged, but no one followed.

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Bill Donakowski, a 2:10 marathoner, caught Martinez at 20 miles but Martinez threw in a few surges and Donakowski gradually faded.

As he crossed the finish line, Martinez realized he was bound for luxury.

“I was really excited, like, ‘Wow! I’m going to have a Mercedes!’ ” he said. “The first thing I thought was, ‘Well, this Mercedes is going to look funny with a fur-lined dash board and dice hanging from the mirror. I’ll just have to fight the women off.’

“Then I started thinking: ‘Wait. Taxes? Insurance? License . . . ?’ The Volkswagen started looking better and better.”

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Martinez is selling the Mercedes. He says the money will come in handy if he decides to take a few months off from teaching to train full time in preparation for the Olympic Trials. Besides, he says, driving the bug doesn’t bother him a bit.

“I’m a VW kind of guy,” he said.

Rock around the clock: Dennis Huffman of Glendale and Vicki DeVita of Acton broke the men’s and women’s 12-hour records at the Orange 12 & 24-Hour Run last weekend at Fred Kelly Stadium in Orange.

Huffman, 42, finished with 82 miles, surpassing the mark of 77 miles 333 feet set last year by Earl Towner of Laguna Beach. Jim Pellon, 41, of Malibu was second with 76 1/2 miles.

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But DeVita was the big story. The 38-year-old supermarket cashier maintained a steady pace throughout and finished third with 73 1/2 miles, smashing the women’s record of 60 1/2 set last year by Toni Stermolle of Hesperia.

“All the guys were really scrambling toward the end,” Race Director Don Pycior said. “They didn’t want to get beat by a woman.”

Of course, many did. David Warady of Huntington Beach finished a mere half-mile behind DeVita for fourth place, and Jeff Kinzel of Corona was fifth with 70 miles.

Rob McNair of Huntington Beach, who had hoped to break Towner’s record, quit eight hours into the race because of a groin injury. He finished with 50 1/2 miles.

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The 24-hour portion was won by Costa Mesa resident Jeff Padilla. Padilla, 41, finished with 112 miles. He was followed by Dorsh Sanders, 48, of Bakersfield (110 3/4), Robert Robak, 48, of Burbank (100), John Blaylock, 48, of Santa Ana (87), and Chuck Brannan, 44, of Bakersfield (75). Jack Rohde-Moe, 62, of Yorba Linda had hoped to run 125 miles, but stopped at 52 1/4 miles because of severe lower leg problems.

Night owl wanted: This year’s 24-Hour Run might have been the last, Pycior says. The 12-hour portion has become increasingly popular, which isn’t the case for the all-day, all-night event. Besides, Pycior says, he’s getting tired of staying up all night.

“If I had someone to help me, like from midnight until dawn, maybe I’d do it,” said the 52-year-old Canyon High cross-country coach.

“But I’ve got to stay up the whole time, so I can mark down everyone’s miles every hour. It gets pretty tiring.”

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Just feed him bananas: Westminster resident Bobby Porter, who ran 31 miles--just for a workout--in the Orange Run, was on television Friday night. Porter, 39, had a small part in the 1973 sci-fi flick “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” which was shown on KTLA at 8 p.m.

Porter played the ape Cornelius, son of Caesar (Roddy McDowall).

Race Schedule

Today

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Huntington Beach Distance Derby. Features a 10-mile run at 7 a.m., a three-mile run at 10, and a one-mile run at 10:30. Starts/finishes at Huntington Beach Pier. Information: 536-5262.

Sunday

San Clemente Fiesta 5,000. Starts 8 a.m. at intersection of Algodon at El Camino Real, San Clemente. Information: 472-1131.

Village of Northwood 5K & 10K Runs for Make A Wish Foundation. Starts 8 a.m. at Northwood Community Park, intersection of Yale Avenue at Bryan, Irvine. Information: 857-1370.

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