THUNDER BAY- Scott Behling finally caught his man.
The Duluth, Minn. runner on Monday ran neck-and-neck with three-time defending Firefighters Ten Mile Road Race champion Trevor Zimak before pulling away for good to capture his first championship trophy at the 86-year-old event.
Runner-up to Zimak the past two years, Behling pushed the pace on the back half of the course to take top spot in a time of 51:01, nearly three minutes quicker than his second-place finish a year ago and good enough for a 30-second gap between him and his closest finisher.
“I started to break free about five miles in,” Behling said. “There was a little cross wind on the way out, so we kind of were a little slower on the way out and kind of picked it up around six miles and up and started moving.
“Trevor was with me until Mile 7 or 8 and then I started to get a little gap.”
Behling, who slept in his car the night before last year’s race, but this year stayed with former winner Jon Balabuck, the eighth man to cross the line in 2019, said the goal was to keep a fast pace going and put the rest of the racers in his rear-view mirror.
“I’ve had a lot of good workouts leading up to this and I know what a good runner he is, so I was trying to feel him out a little bit. He definitely pushed it a little bit at Mile 7 and I tried to hold him off and just keep the pace going.
“I’ve been second to him quite a bit, so to finally get him was a victory. But (Trevor) is a good runner and I respect him as a runner.”
It was the fastest winning time since 2015, when Luka Kip Kemoi won in 50:32.
Zimak was actually more than a minute faster than his 2018 winning time, but it just wasn’t quick enough, he said.
“(Scott’s) been training hard and getting faster every year,” said Zimak, who has run in the past two Boston Marathons and said his preparations for that race cut into his Ten Mile Road Race practice time. “I was faster than last year, so that was a plus. We ran together this year all the way to about seven-and-a-half miles before he finally pulled away.
“I kept telling myself, ‘Don’t let him go, don’t let him go,’ but the pace we were pretty much five-minute miles all the way from five to nine miles, and it was relentless on that pace. I hung onto that for as long as I could.”
There was also a first-time winner on the women’s side.
Lakehead University’s Rebekkah Pyle, who hails from Burlington, Ont., caught up to defending champion Michelle Krezonosk midway through the course and cruised to victory in 1:01:17, a second shy of a three-minute difference between the two runners.
Pyle, who said she wasn’t even thinking about winning when she lined up at the start line,
“I wasn’t really focused on that, I was just focused on beating my coach,” Pyle said, after accomplishing her goal by 1:37.
Still, the win was great.
“I was out to enjoy it. It’s a nice accomplishment to do it,” said the first-time participant who took part in just the second ten-mile race of her career.
“Normally I’m doing shorter stuff like 5 Ks, so it was good.”
Jordan McIntosh, Louis Moreau and Levin Nadlersmith rounded out the men’s top five. Paige Kobe, Molly Pennings and Rebecca Andrews, finishing third, fourth and fifth respectively on the women’s side.
The event featured more than 600 runners, plus 57 five-person relay teams.