As Chet Nicklas crossed the finishing line, he made a slashing gesture with both arms to cut the imaginary tape.
The Meehan resident’s time was far from imaginary: 32:21.08. As Nicklas paused to catch his breath, race director Tim Irvine exclaimed what a great time it was, as Nicklas had to run 4.6 miles of rugged terrain to finish in less than 32 1/2 minutes.
“This was killer,” Nicklas said. “I don’t know how many hills (it had). I practice at home in Meehan, and there are two big hills, but these are different. They hit a little bit differently; they’re pretty rough.”
In order to stay in front, Nicklas said determination is what kept him from falling back, even though the hills were a difficult challenge.
“Once I put myself out in the front and started really fast, I said to myself, ‘Don’t let anybody catch you,’” Nicklas said.
The first-place finish was a State Games sweep for Nicklas, who also placed first in the 5K road race June 6. Nicklas admitted it was a different feeling crossing the finishing line Saturday than it was earlier this month.
“This was the first time I ran this one,” Nicklas said. “It was way more relief than it was last time, I was just so ready to be finished. When I came down that hill, I knew it was over.”
The trail run’s crowd wasn’t as big as the 5K road race several weeks prior, but Irvine said that’s typical for any year of State Games and didn’t think the COVID-19 pandemic put a large dent in the number of participants.
“First of all, it’s a longer distance,” Irvine said. “It’s more of a gravel road, kind of trail-ish terrain, whereas the road race is more pavement. It’s a little smaller field — and it traditionally is, so I wouldn’t really blame that on COVID.”
Given the challenges of the course, Irvine said the event tends to attract some of the most dedicated runners around.
“Sometimes people want to get out,” Irvine said. “They do so many things in training, and they want to measure themselves against a course and see where they are in their training. Sometimes it’s also just wanting to change things up.”
After several local races got canceled this year because of the coronavirus, Irvine said he’s glad State Games was able to make both the road race and the trail run happen.
“COVID has been a huge challenge for us for this year,” Irvine said. “Our races have pretty much all gone away. We’ve had very few since March 14, which was the last race unaffected by COVID, and that was when the wheels fell off of everything. … I was very surprised that the field was pretty normal for the road race, and today’s field was pretty normal, too.”
To see results from the trail run, click here.