Large field hits the streets for Great Race

| Monday, Sept. 28, 2009

Andrew Carnes had the slightest edge over the pack of leaders in the Richard S. Caliguiri Great Race as they turned from Forbes Avenue onto Morewood Avenue in Oakland on Sunday.

By the time they passed the Cathedral of Learning on Pitt's campus, anything short of an amazing surge from the trailers wouldn't be enough to overtake the 22-year-old graduate student from Canton, Ohio. Once they reached Boulevard of the Allies, Carnes had nothing to worry about.

The first-time Great Racer won the 10K in 30:35, beating his personal best by 12 seconds.

"When I finished five miles and knew the last was downhill, I just felt really good," said Carnes, an exercise physiology student at Kent State. "I started to smile a little bit because I knew there were no more uphills, and I was still feeling good. So, it was a great run for me."

He was followed by Kevin Pool, of Greenville, who finished in 31:13; Eric Robertson, of Allison Park, who came in two seconds later; Ian Fitzgerald, of Glenshaw, with a time of 31:32; and Uniontown native Jason Bodnar, of Candler, N.C., in 31:56.

Mary Gill, of Carrboro, N.C., was the top woman with a time of 35:59, followed by Michelle Corkum, of McMurray (36:52) and Anna Beck, of Washington (37:09).

The field was the second-largest ever, with 12,788 participants between the 10K and the 5K combined, running under first drizzling then rainy conditions and fairly cool temperatures. The record was 12,807, set in 1987.

Gill, whose husband is originally from Pittsburgh, said her goal was to get out front, stay out front and not look back, and that's exactly what she did.

"I try not to look back," Gill said. "When someone looks back, and you see them looking back, you're like, 'Oh, they're getting weak, they're getting tired.' And if I look back, I'll know where they're at. If I don't know where they're at, I assume they're right on me."

Gill said she's been in races before where spectators shouted out that she was the leading woman, but that didn't always turn out to be the case.

"I never assume I'm first until I actually cross the finish line and see that little banner, which was cool," said Gill, who said it was her first win in a race of this size.

Bodnar was right behind Carnes throughout Squirrel Hill and into Oakland.

"I thought I was in pretty good shape, so I went out with him," said Bodnar, 39, who used to run the Great Race regularly when he lived in the area. "He looked really comfortable, so I had a feeling he was going to pull away.

"I was with him for about two-and-a-half miles, and it was a combination of him making a move and me dying. He created quite a gap. ... I thought I had a good shot of running right up there with (Carnes), but he was tough."

Carnes said he was targeting a finish of under 31 minutes and knew from his training that he was on schedule to reach his goal. The weather also helped.

"For the spectators, it's wet," Carnes said. "But for the runners, (when it's) overcast, little wind and 60 degrees, you couldn't ask for better conditions.

"I knew the conditions were right for a fast time. I just knew what I had to be at at the (mileage) splits, got focused, took it one mile at a time and didn't try to think ahead."

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Finish line

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