NORWALK - Nick Sykes has done his share of running -- 14 or so years worth, including three marathons, three half-marathons and numerous races in between.
The 21-year-old former New Canaan High School cross country and track team member is a senior at Clemson University and a member of the school's triathlon team. All of this on the resume, but a local 11-mile run in the rain now stands out among the highlights of Sykes' racing career.
Sykes won the Lightfoot Running Club's 11-mile race, which started and finished at Norwalk's Silvermine School on Saturday morning. He led a field of 111 finishers in a time of 1:05.58, averaging a six-minute mile to pull away late. Sykes outlasted Brooklyn, NY 38-year-old Jacob Cooper (1:06.17) by putting the pedal to the metal toward the end of the hilly course.
"It feels really good. It's the longest race I've ever won and I don't win all that many," Sykes said.
Sykes and Cooper, who hadn't met before Saturday, found themselves separated from the pack and ran much of the race at the same pace.
"We were side by side and chatting for the first eight miles or so which was nice. It's a long enough race that you can chat without being out of breath too much," Sykes said.
The New Canaan runner decided to break away toward the end of the race and put a little distance between the two competitors as they climbed one of the hills in the approach to the finish line.
"I put in a hard effort on that hill," Sykes said.
Sykes knew he at least had the opportunity to win the race when he signed up.
"I thought I might have a chance but with these races it all depends who shows up," he said. "I thought I had a very good race today. I've been slightly faster through 11 miles in a half marathon before but those were on flat courses."
Sykes is training for a full marathon to be held in Erie, PA in four months.
The runners all seemed to enjoy the rain and cool low-70s temperature, including New Canaan's Andrea Williamson.
"It was great. It was perfect weather. It kept it cool and it was refreshing," Williamson said.
The 57-year-old Williamson was 33rd overall and won the 50-59 age division in a time of 1:31.57. Williamson took the hilly course for what it was worth.
"For every up there's a down," Williamson said.
Darien's Shana Decsi was 16th among the 111 runners. Decsi completed the run in a time of 1:21.26.
Saturday's race was dedicated to the memory of Sean P Fogarty, a Stamford resident and longtime Lightfoot Running Club member who passed away this past week.
"A longtime Lightfoot member, Sean Fogarty touched and inspired so many of us in the local running community. Sean came to every race with a smile and plenty of encouragement for his fellow runners, both new and not so new," Lightfoot Running Club race director Don Capone said. "His enthusiasm for the sport and the people in it embody the spirit of the Lightfoot Running Club, and we are honored to dedicate the 11-mile race in his memory."