20th annual event

Waldoboro native Gomez helps another finish in Beach to Beacon 10K

Elite runner demonstrates true sportsmanship by aiding fellow competitor — with Maine title on line
By Mark Haskell | Aug 07, 2017
Courtesy of: Ann Kaplin Robert Gomez, middle, originally from Waldoboro and now a Windham resident, helps Jesse Orach of Gorham, left, cross the finish line during the 20th annual Beach To Beacon 10-kilometer road race on Aug. 5 in Cape Elizabeth.

Cape Elizabeth — Robert Gomez did not think there was anything spectacular about his performance at the 20th running of the Beach to Beacon 10-kilometer road race on Saturday, Aug. 5.

“I came out flat,” the Waldoboro native admitted.

However, there is perhaps no better example of the adage, “It is not how you start a race, but how you finish it” than the 34-year-old’s second-place finish among Mainers (and 22nd overall) on Saturday, where he aided another runner’s eventual first-place finish in one of the state’s iconic races.

Gomez, who now resides in Windham, came upon 23-year-old Jesse Orach of Gorham with less than a quarter-mile to go in the race. Orach had the Maine title well in hand before he collapsed — the finish line barely in sight.

“I was pushing to the finish and I didn’t see him go down,” said Gomez. “He was down when I came onto him. He was already in a heap on the ground.”

Gomez then stopped to rouse the fellow Maine runner and assisted him along the final leg of his journey as Orach won the Maine title as the Pine Tree State's first finisher.

Orach and Gomez finished the race with identical times of 31 minutes and 31 seconds, but Orach was deemed to have finished in front of Gomez.

Click to read the Portland Press Herald story, with comments from Orach. See video and more photos of the Gomez/Orach finish below.

Much has been made of Gomez’s selfless act, but he said, “I feel like what I did was not out of the ordinary.”

“I couldn’t really see myself doing anything else,” he said. “I wouldn’t have felt right running straight to the finish and taking the Maine title from him. I wouldn’t have felt good about it. It would have felt like a hollow victory.”

Gomez said he had no previous history with Orach. Or at least that he recalled.

“[Orach] said he had raced against me seven or eight years ago when he was maybe a freshman in high school and I was a lot younger, but the only time I ever met him or really talked to him was the day before at the Beach to Beacon press conference in Cape Elizabeth.”

Gomez said he was impressed by Orach and “was a good, standup young guy and that was pretty much all I knew at that point.”

Gomez said he stayed with Orach through the first mile of the race, but “he started to slowly but steadily pull away” and Gomez had “given up on catching [Orach] and was just trying to finish respectably.”

Then, the next time he saw Orach, the younger runner was slumped over on the grass with the finish line in sight.

“It’s kind of winding going into the last two 10ths of a mile into the finish of the race,” said Gomez. “When I noticed he was down on the ground, I really only had a maximum of five seconds before I decided what I wanted to do. I only saw him down for 3-5 seconds and I really didn’t hesitate. I went with my gut instinct, which was, ‘I’ve got to pick him up. I’ve got to get him to the finish line.’ ”

Gomez said Orach was “past the point of words” when he picked him up.

“I was giving him some words of encouragement but he wasn’t responding,” Gomez said. “When I got him up on his feet he started to run under his own power and I was able to sort of guide him forward and keep him balanced.”

Gomez said as the duo approached the finish line, he had only two thoughts: To make sure no one was about to pass them, and to make sure he did not cross the line ahead of Orach by mistake.

“In that picture it looks like I’m throwing him to the ground,” Gomez said with a laugh. “What I’m trying to do is actually give him a nudge from behind the line. I didn’t want to carry him over because I didn’t want to trigger the mat first.”

Gomez said he did not see Orach again until the award ceremony roughly 90 minutes later as “he was swarmed by medical personnel and rightfully so because he had a temperature of 107.”

But when the two came together again for the first time since the incident, Gomez said Orach was overwhelmed by the whole ordeal.

“He came over and gave me a big hug and said he didn’t know what to say,” said Gomez. “And we got talking about the race a little bit and he was working real hard trying not to get emotional and I guess at that point we became friends. We’ve been talking ever since and planning on doing some training and racing together.”

The photo of Gomez assisting Orach across the finish line — along with videos of the finish — have been viewed thousands of times on the event’s Facebook page. The photo also was shown on “The Today Show” on Monday, Aug. 7. That photo appears with this story.

“The amount of people — strangers — that have reached out and messaged me and said how much of an inspiration it’s been [has been overwhelming],” said Gomez, who earlier this summer set the Waldoboro Day 5K (3.1-mile) course record at 16:01. “Some people have even said it’s given them hope that there’s still good people in the world, which is just crazy. I think people just want something good to see.”

“I guess this will be my 15 minutes of fame and Jesse’s 15 minutes of fame and we’ll roll with that. But I’m happy we’re able to provide a little sunshine for people out there.”

Stephen Kosegi-Kibet, 30, of Kenya finished first among 6,887 Beach to Beacon competitors with a time of 27 minutes and 55 seconds, over the course that begins at Crescent Beach State Park and ends at the Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park.

Gomez attended Medomak Valley High School during his freshman and sophomore years only to graduate from the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone in 2001.

Gomez did track and cross country at both schools and also won a state Class D cross-country state championship for MSSM in 1999 and 2000. He then went on to Bates College in Lewiston, where he also participated in cross country.

Compiled images by Portland Press Herald staff photographer Ben McCanna. (Courtesy of: Courtesy of Portland Press Herald)
Robert Gomez, right, helps Jesse Orach. (Courtesy of: Ann Kaplin)
Robert Gomez, right, helps Jesse Orach. (Courtesy of: Ann Kaplin)
Robert Gomez, right, helps Jesse Orach. (Courtesy of: Ann Kaplin)
Robert Gomez, right, helps Jesse Orach. (Courtesy of: Ann Kaplin)
Comments (2)
Posted by: Margaret McCrea | Aug 12, 2017 10:45

Holy WOW.....I never tire of watching this. May this good person be contagious.


Posted by: Ellen Spring | Aug 08, 2017 07:32

This is what running, and life, are about.   When someone needs an assist you care enough to stop and help without always fighting to be number one. Yay to Robert Gomez for showing us all what is most important.

Ellen Spring

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