Joseph Gray lands lucky No. 7 in 10K
Photo: JohnRyan Lockman

Joseph Gray lands lucky No. 7 in 10K

Posted by: Shauna Farnell

But let’s be honest … luck had nothing to do with it

When Joe Gray came across the finish line in a dead sprint at the adidas Terrex 10K Spring Runoff on Sunday, announcer Larry Grossman said, “I don’t know why he’s looking over his shoulder. No one is near him.”

The victory was a seven-peat for the 37-year-old pro runner from Colorado Springs. While to onlookers he certainly made it look easy, he said leading up to the race, internally he was undergoing “mental warfare.”

“The challenge when you’ve been off for so long is just the anxiety coming back into racing,” said Gray, who finished in 39 minutes, 37 seconds and said it was his first competition in about 16 months. “Somebody said to me yesterday, ‘you’ve won it six times, you should be confident.’ But it’s actually more nerve racking the more you win, because everyone is targeting you.”

Even that type of pressure doesn’t compare to the pressure Gray puts on himself.

“It’s not necessarily losing to someone specifically, but if you lose, in your mind, you’re like, I’m not as good as I was before. You start to question yourself. Even though you might have run better than you ever have, someone might have happened to have a better day,” he said.

As it turned out, Gray beat his nearest competitor – pro distance runner Tyler McCandless – by nearly 30 seconds on the course that measured 7.3 miles with nearly 1,500 feet of climbing. Gray said it was one of the more technical courses he’s raced in Vail, finishing down the steep and narrow hiking trail, Strawberry Fields.

“Before Strawberry, Tyler was really close. I thought I went the wrong way. I was kind of waiting. I saw he made the turn, too. At the end, I was able to get away from him,” Gray said. “I’ve been on like four iterations of this course. They’re all hard.”

McCandless led a closely packed trio of elite runners – Joseph Demoor and Morgan Elliott – across the finish line to finish second, third and fourth, respectively.

New to the GoPro Mountain Games, 21-year-old Thornton-based runner Janelle Lincks doubled down on her brow-raising weekend performances on Sunday. After handily winning Friday’s Aprés 5K, Lincks’ 10K finish time of 45:35.00 was nearly two and a half minutes faster than women’s runner up Giselle Slotboom and also significantly faster than the majority of the men’s field.

“It’s been a fun weekend,” said Lincks, who up until about a year ago, competed mostly in road and track events. “I love the terrain here. The course is beautiful.”

After departing the finish area at a spry jog, Gray went on to compete in the Junk Brands Pepi’s Face-Off a few hours later, where Elliott edged him by 25 seconds for the win, both runners managing to complete more than six laps up and down the steep, black-rated ski slope.

“This year everyone’s doubling up on events, so I figured, man, if I’m not doubling, I’m being a wuss,” Gray joked after the adidas Terrex 10K Spring Runoff.

As far as what’s next for the first Black American to win the World Mountain Running Championships (in 2016), Gray said he’s aiming to head to Europe this summer to attempt to break an old record on some renowned peak or trail that he is yet to disclose and then maintain his health and strength for the 2021 World Championships, which take place in Thailand in November.

His seventh win in the addidas Terrex 10K Spring Runoff holds a special place for him, however, as do the GoPro Mountain Games in general.

“I started my career here many years ago. This was one of my first pro races, so this race means a lot to me,” he said. “ Ellen Miller [local mountain running/mountaineering icon] is a friend of mine who really helped me here and I really appreciate the Vail Valley Foundation hosting this event during a time when we have nowhere to compete. When I retire, I’ll probably still bring my kids out here to watch.”

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