TRAVERSE CITY — At mile 18, Jon Gries was not feeling great.
At mile 20, he was feeling even worse.
But somehow, some way, Gries was able to fight through his struggles in the last eight miles of Saturday’s Bayshore Marathon to capture the men’s title in the 31st running of the event.
Gries, from Haslett, finished in a time of 2:25:11.6, bettering his second-place finish from a year ago by one spot when he ran a 2:22:17.9. But this year’s race was a taxing event for the race champion as he ended up in the medical tent immediately after he was done to get intravenous fluids.
“I don’t even know completely what happened, but around mile 18 that’s when I felt like, ‘Oh, crap, I don’t know about this,’” said Gries. “Fortunately I was able to stay on my feet, but by the time I hit mile 20 I thought, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to make it.’ I just thought, ‘I’ll keep running until I make it to the finish line or until I fall over — one of the two.’ Fortunately I made it.”
David Mast of Zeeland closed in on Gries down the stretch, but couldn’t quite make up the difference to pull out the win and finished second in 2:25:58.5
The trouble Gries had late in the race came after he got off to a rocket-fast start and had a significant lead over the rest of the field.
“I went out at a pretty good pace, probably too fast for today,” he said. “I felt good so I thought I’d just roll with how I felt. I was at about 1:08:30 through the half and the wind was at our back the whole way out. As soon as we turned around it was in my face, obviously. I knew I was pretty far ahead. At the end I didn’t know how I was going to finish. For all I knew I was going at a 10-minute pace. I just didn’t know. I just thought he (Mast) would catch me.”
So where did Gries find the mental fortitude and physical strength to get through the race?
“Deep down, I guess,” he said. “I just knew I had trained so hard for this. I didn’t want to not finish. I figured as long as I had some energy left I was going to keep pushing.”
Traverse City’s Philip Heinlen took third with a time of 2:27:58.7, Jesse Anderson of Fenton ran a fourth-place time of 2:32:10.6 and Chan Yew Woo of Ames, Iowa, rounded out the top five with a 2:32:47.5.
Even though he was able to complete the race and win it at the same time, there was a bit of disappointment from Gries with the way the race transpired.
“Obviously not the way I wanted it to go today,” he said. “I was hoping to run about 2:19.”