Newcomer wins Pittsburgh's Great Race


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One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do.

And that is how Jim Spisak had to have felt after maintaining about a half-mile lead for the duration of the 2013 Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race.

"The guy in first-place, I don't know who he is, but he's really fast," said Trent Binford-Walsh, 24, of Oakland, and the 2012 winner of the 10-kilometer race who finished second with a time of 30:09. "I thought he might fade by the third mile, but by the third mile he kept gaining distance on me and then I knew he wasn't going to fade."

Even the third-place finisher admitted how lonely Spisak must have felt being all alone in first-place.

"I wish I had more company, that Jim Spisak, he's kind of rude you know, he just wants to get out and run away from everyone," laughed Vince McNally, 23, of Lancaster, who finished with a time 30:29. "He doesn't like company I guess."

Like Binford-Walsh last year, Spisak won the annual Great Race as a first-time participant.

Spisak is a 22-year-old graduate student at Duquesne University who studied secondary education as an undergrad and is now majoring in instructional technology. He no longer runs cross country at Duquesne, but said he still has track eligibility left. He said he redshirted as a freshman because he was student-teaching at Gateway High School in Monroeville.

Spisak was way out in front at the 5-mile mark with a time of 23:21 when he noticed his Duquesne teammates and friends from Carnegie Mellon cheering him on from an overpass above the Boulevard of the Allies. He knew he had "a decent advantage" by distancing from the other runners, but he still wanted to keep the pace and push himself.

"My friend was up on the Boulevard and he was like, 'Yeah, I can't see anybody,'" Spisak said. "I was thinking 'Oh, don't tell me that, tell me it's someone behind me,'" he laughed. "Even if there was no one with me, I wanted to run as hard as I could and push myself."

In preparation, there is planning. Spisak said he knew if a runner was to "blast off too fast" in the first two miles, it was going to come back and get you on the boulevard. He said coming into the race he didn't know much about the other participants, but knew there were other good runners.

"I wanted to just take the race out hard and see if anybody went out there with me and if not, I wanted to run hard; that was the plan."

Spisak said he was training for the Great Race by running "about 110 miles a week," gearing up for track season and still training with the "Duquesne cross country guys."

"This gives me an idea of where I'm at and I'm happy with it, but I still have a lot of work to do to get to where I want to be in the spring," Spisak said. "As of now I'm definitely planning on coming back; it was a great experience."

Unlike last year's eventful finish in the women's 10K that came down to a one second split, Clara Santucci won by nearly two minutes.

"I'm very happy," said Santucci, who finished with a time of 32:54. "I knew downhill was going to be fast so I wanted to PR. My 10K PR on the track was 33:16 in college. I broke 33 and that was my goal."

The male winner of the 5-kilometer race was Caleb Muller, 22, of Pittsburgh, who finished with a time of 14:47 and the female winner was Larissa Park, 33, of Massachusetts, who finished with a time of 16:39.

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Kelton Brooks: kbrooks@post-gazette.com. First Published September 29, 2013 12:15 PM


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