Justin Taylor has run competitively for about 10 years. And it shows.
The Penn State senior won one of the most popular and well-attended races he ever participated in — the Sept. 30 5K run in the Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race. He outpaced the second place finisher by almost a minute.
Quite a feat considering more than 4,100 runners entered the 5K, according to rungreatrace.com.
“In the 10K last year I think I came in fifth in the Great Race, so it wasn’t too surprising to be up with the top people,” Taylor said. “But it was a little bit of a surprise to win.”
A Jewish native of Wexford, Taylor, who began preparing for the Great Race in July, finished with a time of 15:09. He ran the 5K instead of the 10K this year because he was recovering from an injury, which did not give him enough time to prepare for a 10K race.
“[I did] a mix of longer distance runs as well as some faster workouts on a track leading up to the race,” Taylor said of his training. “I even threw in working on hills because I knew the course was a little bit hilly.”
Besides running, his workouts also included core strength exercises.
Much of Taylor’s preparation consisted of building up his endurance by continuously increasing the mileage he ran for practice. He said that he would usually train six or seven days a week depending on how he felt.
The 5K race, which started on Fifth Avenue in Oakland, finished before the Great Race’s 10K runners started, meaning Taylor crossed the finish line at Point State Park before anyone else that day.
Taylor’s mother met him at the finish line, but his father found out he won the race via a phone call, because he was in Squirrel Hill’s Frick Park getting ready to run the 10K.
Taylor said he felt excited when he crossed the finish line, but his most vivid memory from the day came during the race.
“[I enjoyed] running on the Boulevard of the Allies and running on streets that you normally can’t run on because they’re full of traffic,” he recalled. “And just getting to see the skyline of Pittsburgh which you see so many times but not while you’re just out for a run. I was just trying to enjoy the moment while I was out there.”
Taylor ran for his cross-country team in middle school and high school. He ran on his cross-country team at Penn State for a year and a half but left the team due to injuries. Now he trains on his own.
At 22, Taylor is looking to run races of different lengths to challenge himself. For his next competition, he is thinking about entering in the Thanksgiving Day five-mile Turkey Trot run in Downtown Pittsburgh.
He is also setting his sights on running longer distance races.
“I think I’m going to try to move up to the half-marathon and try the Pittsburgh half-marathon in the spring,” Taylor said. The half-marathon exceeds 13 miles.
Even though he has set his goal at longer distances, Taylor is thrilled with his 5K victory.
“It was definitely exciting,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve won a race with that many people in it before, so it was pretty neat.”
(Andrew Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com.)