Steve Scott of Fallbrook has raced many a mile, but none with quite the same challenges he met in the Beach Games $1,000 Invitational Mile at Salt Creek State Park Sunday.
There were beachcombers to dodge, sand castles to hurdle and pockets of soft sand to negotiate along the four-lap, crowd-lined course. Not to mention the early afternoon temperature of 101.
Despite all that, Scott managed to pull ahead of Chuck Aragon of Albuquerque, N.M., in the final 200 yards to win in 4 minutes 17 seconds.
"It was a test of survival," said Scott, who holds the American mile record at 3:47.69. "We all ran really hard, you slipped every stride, but I think I just lasted a little bit longer."
One who didn't last was race rabbit Andy DiConti, a former distance star at La Canada High School. DiConti took the pack of 10 out quickly from the start, but he relinquished the lead to Scott just before the first quarter-mile turnaround.
At each 180-degree turn, the runners were forced almost to a dead stop before they sprinted around toward the next 440-yard straightaway.
Scott lost the lead to Aragon at 600 yards, but he stayed on Aragon's shoulder as the two broke away from the pack.
With about 300 yards to go, Scott pulled ahead by five yards, leaving Aragon close behind, but literally in the dust.
"I had a few kids run through in front of me," said Aragon, who finished second in 4:18. "And there were sand castles on the course to dodge, and those turns. I'm basically a very clumsy guy, and Steve outran me."
Scott, known for a fast finishing kick, neither had nor needed one in the final 200 yards. Instead, he received an earful from the crowd of about 2,000, chanting, "Thousand bucks! Thousand bucks!"
"This was tough, but it was really fun too," Scott said. "For us and the spectators. They really got into it."
Gary Geyer of Long Beach finished third in 4:26. Treg Scott of Tempe, Ariz., was fourth (4:27) and John Koningh of Newport Beach was fifth (4:28).