Patience and perseverance plus talent and training. These all helped Kevin Lyons achieve a long-term goal last Thursday - winning the Times Turkey Trot.
Lyons, 21, is a senior at Harvard by way of Clearwater Central Catholic and is a Palm Harbor resident.
In past years, elite runners would sometimes use the preliminary 5K event as a warmup for the 10K, but Lyons had designs on a sweep from the outset. Lyons opened a 40-second lead in the first race, cruising to the win in 15 minutes, 42 seconds.
"That didn't take too much out of me because I didn't have to rely on a strong finishing kick. Furthermore, the weather was cool, not hot as it often has been at this race," Lyons said. "But I was prepared to sprint at the end of the 5K if I had to."
In the main event, Nathan Holden (Clearwater/University North Florida) built a 40-second lead at the 2-mile mark.
That's where Lyons remembered the words of his father, Gary: Run your own race, be patient and save your kick until the end.
"What was fortunate was that when Nathan took off only Lee Stephens went with him," said Lyons, a former state track champion in the 3,200 meters. "Usually there's a pack up ahead. I figured Nathan would come back to me, but I didn't know what to expect from Stephens."
Lyons said Stephens kept throwing in surges between the 2.5- and 3.5-mile points. But he didn't react.
Gradually, Lyons passed Stephens, last year's runnerup, at about Mile 4 and targeted Holden.
"What was encouraging for me was seeing Nathan glancing over his shoulder occasionally," Lyons said. "That told me he was concerned and gave me more confidence. When we hit Druid Street at about Mile 5, I was finally able to catch up with him. We had a brief exchange - 'nice race' - but no chatting because we were both hurting."
Lyons widened the gap without sprinting. His margin was 8 seconds, winning in 32:42.
Lyons, who ran in the No. 2 position on the Harvard cross country team as a junior, opted to run on his own this fall, training for January's Disney Marathon and concentrating on his studies as an economics major.
NOTABLES: St. Petersburg's Christa Benton defended her women's title in 35:56, good for ninth overall and the fastest women's time since Mary Level-Menton's 34:42 in 1997. Menton, 43, a nine-time Trot winner, finished third behind Laura Drake of St. Petersburg.
- The best women's dual runner this year was Kailand Cosgrove, a sophomore at Tarpon Springs High. She finished second in the 5K and sixth in the 10K.
- Palm Harbor's Jeff Delie won his third age-group title in record-breaking time. Delie, 50, representing the host West Florida Y Runners Club, won the 50-and-over title in 36:26, good for ninth man among the field of 2,397 overall. The previous record (37:05) was held by Ian Jackson of St. Petersburg.
- Coach Joe Burgasser left his 5K public address announcer position to run the 10K. At 68, he finished first in the over-60 and fourth, 50-and-over, in 40:12, good for 47th male.
- Former 40-49 record holder Jim Keppeler, 58, earned a top 100 coffee cup, finishing 100th in 42:43. His female counterpart was Christine Arbask, 48, of St. Petersburg, 100th in 48:56. The top 100 finishers in the 5K and 10K are listed at www.coolrunning.com.
REUNION ATMOSPHERE: The annual Turkey Trot is a family affair and provides an opportunity for veteran road warriors to renew friendships.
Willie Roth sported his 1980 Trot T-shirt and congratulated an old friend, John Matthews, 49, also of St. Petersburg, on his 96th-place finish in the 5K.