Andy Boyle says he was running just behind a group from the Air Force marathon team at the front of the pack in the roughly 10-kilometer run at Cheyenne Mountain State Park for the Pikes Peak Road Runners' Winter Series opener Saturday, when he decided to make his move.
"There's a big hill about halfway through, and I thought that if I waited until the top, they'd chase me because, you know."
I didn't know.
"They're in college and I didn't know how fast they were."
Boyle, a senior at Air Academy, won his age group a few years ago, which he says motivated him to return for the race's top spot.
At around 5-foot-8, Boyle is a little shorter than many of the race's tall, lanky finishers, but he says he played to his strengths Saturday, overtaking the group of Air Force runners during their ascent.
"I passed them on the hill. Then I let it fly on the way down," he recalled after the race.
The strategy worked, and Boyle finished at 48 minutes, 34 seconds, more than a minute ahead of his nearest pursuer.
Despite mild temperatures and clear skies at the start and finish lines, two to three inches of snow - or mud where it had melted - covered most of the trail, slowing Boyle and others out of reach of their personal bests.
A Gazette All-Area cross-country team honorable mention, Boyle doesn't plan to run in college because he's "not that fast." But after besting a field of 236 men and women in a long 10-kilometer run, the standard distance of a collegiate cross-country race, he says he'll consider walking on at a college team over the next few months.
At the finish line, smiles were as common as runners doubled over in pain and heaving for air, and several of the racers said the Winter Series is a balance between competitive and social running. But not Boyle.
"Nah, I like to run these (the Winter Series) pretty hard," he said.
By contrast, being ahead of the pack wasn't most important to Ben Partridge.
"It's definitely the community. When you're out there and (other runners) are saying, 'Keep it up! Great job!' That's great, but there's always a sense of competition. I ran it with a good friend so I had to beat him," he said.
James Burns, who won the 5-kilometer distance and races professionally as a triathlete, still takes a casual approach to the series.
"It's a good running community . and I always think of the Winter Series as a good way to get some work in with friends."
In the women's division, Stephanie Wurtz topped the field, finishing in 54:28 for 20th overall.
The next race in the four-event series will be Jan. 25.