BANGOR – In a spirit that Terry Fox would have admired, Tom Thibeau and Michael Gaige battled the elements and each other through the 3.1-mile race named in honor of the Canadian athlete Sunday morning.
Thibeau started out fast, leading eventual winner Gaige, Pat Sullivan and Bob Everett through a five-minute first mile from the Best Western White House Inn over Littlefield Avenue and the Odlin Road in the 13th Annual Terry Fox 5K Run.
But a turn onto a three-quarter mile dirt road leading from the Odlin Road to Cold Brook Road, told the tale, as Thibeau and Gaige left Sullivan and Everett and the pack of 206 participants in the dust.
Gardiner’s Thibeau, 37, continued to lead through a 5:20 second mile and looked strong heading into the final mile.
But Gaige, a 43-year old masters runner from Bangor, caught Thibeau at the turn onto the Cold Brook Road and kicked it home in a wind-hindered time of 16 minutes, 7 seconds.
“He always starts out real fast so I knew I was just going to be tagging along with him for the first couple of miles anyway and then start kicking, and that’s how it played out,” Gaige said.
“I figured it was going to be just Tom and I from and once we hit that dirt, it slows everbody down, and he’s so strong that I was really just hanging on there,” he continued. “I’ve got more speed but I was really just hanging on.”
A swirling wind which seemed to be against the runners on all legs of the course slowed times.
“The wind was against us quite a bit and it never seemed to push us,” said Thibeau, who finished second at 16:16. “We took that sharp right and it should have been pushing us but it stopped.”
Sullivan came in third at 16:40. Scott Hosmer of Bangor finished fourth at 16:50, nipping three-time Fox winner Everett of Fort Fairfield by two seconds.
Sheila Hodges of Hampden won the overall women’s division in 19:56.
“I just went out as hard as I could, `cause I know them guys have better kicks than me,” Thibeau said of Gaige and Sullivan. “The only time I’ve ever beaten them is when I stayed in front of them or it’s all over. This is the first time I’ve ever beaten Sullivan so I’m real happy.
“Mike likes the shorter distance and he looked super and when he went by at the 2 1/2 , he went by real fast,” Thibeau added. “I went out and just tried to hang on.”
Hodges has been virtually untouched in recent races, but Sunday provided her with a little more competition as Mary Poulin of Carrabassett Valley finished 15 seconds behind Hodges at 20:11. Katrina Bisheimer of Bangor came in third at 20:26.
“I was focusing on time but the wind was just, just unreal,” said Hodges, 40, of Hamdpen. “I was aiming for 19:41 and I think it was 19:54, so with the wind factor, I’m guessing it was a good 20 seconds that was taken away. It was head on the whole way.”
The race has raised more than $30,000 for cancer research in 12 years, with this year’s proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial being conducted at Bangor’s Eastern Maine Medical Center. EMMC is the only hospital in Maine participating in the national study, overseen by the National Cancer Institute.
This year’s race raised about $1,400 from participants’ entry fees.
“You’ve got the real fast runners here and it’s for a good cause,” said Thibeau of his fourth Fox trip north. “There’s not many races that are for a good cause like this.”
MEN Michael Gaige 16:07 Tom Thibeau 16:16 Pat Sullivan 16:40 WOMEN Sheila Hodges 19:56 Mary Poulin 20:11 Katrina Bisheimer 20:26