Downtown Pittsburgh Liberty Mile race ends in a photo finish


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By his own admission, the recurring theme of Macklin Chaffee's running career is always being a step behind, always coming in second place.

But after running Friday in the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile Downtown, Chaffee will have to add another chapter to his story.

A former NCAA Division III national runner-up in the 1,500-meter event from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., Chaffee came down the final stretch stride-for-stride with race favorite Jordan McNamara, a pro with Nike and Oregon Track Club Elite.

GNC Live Well Liberty Mile

Hundreds of professional and amateur runners took part in the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile downtown. (Video by Andrew Rush; 8/9/2012)

It came down to a photo finish and Chaffee, it was determined, edged McNamara by the slightest of margins. His winning time was 4 minutes, 0.49 seconds while McNamara was a hair behind at 4:00.52.

"This is the best competition -- by far -- that I've ever raced against and won," Chaffee said. "I've been second pretty much my entire career. That's like the story of my career."

McNamara was coming off a career-best 3:52.42 finish at the end of July at a race in London. He came in second place here last year and had to settle for second again.

"It would've been nice to be four one-hundredths faster, but that's the way it shakes out sometimes," McNamara said.

He sped up too soon in the event last year and was passed at the end. This time, he thinks he might hav2e waited too long to go full speed.

"I knew it was going to be tight. He had a gap on me and I thought he's gone too early and I'm going to wait, just like I said. And I waited and I waited ... and maybe I waited a little too late."

Heather Kampf defended her title in the women's pro mile. The former University of Minnesota runner finished in 4:32, two seconds ahead of Chelsea Reilly.

"Warming up today, I thought, 'No excuses, my body feels good,' " Kampf said. "I was kind of using [the fans] as my rear-view mirror, listening for other names besides my own for who people are cheering for to guess which people were close behind me."

She dedicated the race to her dog, Ricky, who was diagnosed with cancer Thursday.

There's little rest for Kampf, who will head to the airport early today to compete in a race tonight in Massachusetts.

First prize for professionals was $4,000 and second place took $2,500. Children as young as 4 ran in the youth event, while Louis Lodovico, 89 of Ellwood City, was the oldest runner, getting an ovation from the crowd as he crossed the line.

Nicholas Berra, 44, of Enola, Pa., won the USA Men's Masters for runners older than 40. A retired Navy pilot, Berra finished in 4:28.

Magdalena Lewy Boulet turned 40 on Aug. 1 and is now batting 1.000 in her Masters career, taking the women's event in 4:50.

Lewy Boulet was a U.S. Olympic marathon runner in Beijing and won the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2002.

"It's good to be back," she said. "This is exciting. The marathon, there's so many miles and so many reasons for things to go wrong. But in a mile race, before you even start hurting, you see the finish line. It's pretty sweet."

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Nick Veronica: nveronica@post-gazette.com and Twitter @NickVeronica. First Published August 10, 2013 4:00 AM


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