Great Race features some first-time winners
Curtis Larimer heard footsteps behind him as he neared the finish line of the Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race.
Lisa Burnett didn't know how close the second-place woman was to her, and didn't want to turn around to look.
Both finished on top in Sunday's 34th running of the Great Race, with Larimer winning the 10K men's division in 30:48 and Burnett taking the 10K women's race in 35:15. It was the largest field ever for the race, with 14,500 registered for both the 10K and the 5K combined.
"This is probably the first big race I've won in a long time," said Larimer, 25, who ran for Pitt as an undergraduate and is now working toward a doctorate in material science. "I ran in the lead probably the last mile and a quarter, mile and a half, but I was hearing footsteps, whether real or psychologically. But when you're in the lead you kind of have to run scared."
Larimer finished 8 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Josh Christopher and 16 seconds ahead of third-place finisher David Mock. Last year's winner, Sam Luff, finished fourth in 31:15.
All four men were part of a pack of 18 that started to break apart as they approached CMU. After two miles, the group was down to seven and then five as they neared the four-mile mark turning onto the Boulevard of the Allies.
"I did a cool-down run with (Mock), and he said as we hit the hill going up Boulevard of the Allies his goal was to push as hard as he could to break that group down," Larimer said. "It went down to three, and then just he and I. We went through a water stop and I just grabbed a cup and threw it over my head, and either he was warmer or hurting a little more and he tried to drink something. I got a couple yards on him and that was all I needed for the advantage."
Burnett led second-place finisher Cheryl Collins-Gatons, 44, a former elite marathoner, by 45 seconds. Leah Ahlin, who won last year, came in sixth (36:59).
Burnett and her husband, eighth-place finisher Clay Burnett, didn't register in time and purchased their bibs on Craigslist on Monday. A former Ohio State soccer player, Burnett had run 5Ks, 10-milers and half-marathons, but this was her first race at the 10K distance. She was already well ahead midway through the race.
"I never looked back," she said. "I heard the crowd every time I went by say first girl, but I really didn't look back the entire race, which is good for me because usually I'm checking."
Clay Burnett said they'd always heard good things about the Great Race and bought the bibs after returning last weekend from the CVS Caremark Downtown 5K in Providence, R.I., where Lisa Burnett finished 18th overall with a new personal record of 17:00.
"We knew she could run in the 35s and guessed 35:15, and that's what she ran so that was pretty cool," Clay Burnett said. "I knew the competition would be good and this is a huge race, so we're pretty excited."