TAMPA — Sprinting down the backstretch in Sunday’s Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic, Scott Fauble was far enough ahead of the men’s half-marathon field to know that first place would belong to him.
Upon this discovery, Fauble, 27, extended his arms, emphatically breaking the tape with his elbows as he crossed the finish line in one hour, 5:09 minutes. He continued to pump his fists amid a steady flow of hands patting him on the back.
It was a moment of unfiltered joy for a title Fauble finally could embrace.
Fauble had finally figured it out. It was there on his face, the jubilation and relief that came with knowing he had learned how to not only compete with the best in the distance world, but surge ahead.
“I’ve been so close for a number of times,” said Fauble, who won a race for the first time in four years. “It was nice to finally break the tape instead of watching someone else do it right in front of me.”
By Fauble’s account, he has been a runnerup at least five times in his nascent running career. Several factors have caused him to fall short. Sometimes, he unleashed his kick too early. Other times, he did not a cover a move made by an opponent.
“I’ve got second enough times there wasn’t really a script to follow,” Fauble said.
There were times in his career when it seemed the finish he wanted so badly was locked in a vault and no one would tell him the combination. But the painful memories of races that got away served as a powerful motivators.
“As much as it hurts to lose, I’ve also learned how to overcome some of those mistakes and get better,” Fauble said.
This was the first time Fauble participated in the Gasparilla Distance Classic, mostly to gear up for the Boston Marathon. The muggy conditions for the 13.2-mile race along Bayshore Boulevard also helped Fauble prepare for the kind of weather he could face two months from now in Massachusetts.
The temperature at the start of Sunday’s half-marathon was near 70 degrees, a stark contrast to the snowy conditions Fauble left three days ago in Flagstaff, Ariz., where he and Gasparilla half-marathon women’s winner Aliphine Tuliamuk train with Northern Arizona Elite track club.
To acclimate, Fauble purposely wore wet clothes and covered himself with ice.
“I looked at the forecast,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be 40 degrees with no wind or humidity. It was going to be a tough test.”
Fauble was just as prepared for the competition.
He put it all together by relying on strategy in a duel that resembled a chess match as much as a foot race.
From the start, Fauble stayed with a lead pack that included defending half-marathon champion Elkanah Kibet, as well as Parker Stinson, Abinet Adraro and Augustus Maiyo. As the miles piled up, the contenders dwindled.
By the last 2 miles, Fauble and Colorado’s Kibet were the only front-runners. The leader was hard to determine, with each trying to shake off the other. One runner would gain a slight advantage, only to quickly see it disappear.
In the last 400 meters, Fauble made his move at the right time, surging ahead to take the lead for good.
“I just sat on Elkanah (01:05:13) until the end,” Fauble said. “I would have a liked to have made a big move earlier, but Elkanah was looking pretty strong and wasn’t really letting me go past him. So I let him lead and push it a little bit, and stayed patient. That was the biggest thing.”
If patience is a virtue, consider this elusive win Fauble’s reward.