It appeared that heart and determination carried Mark Gleason to the last of his three victories at the 1998 Southern Section track and field championships.
But Gleason, a deeply religious young man, knew it was much more.
"I'm a firm believer that each of us is made up of a spirit and a physical body," he said. "When I started [the last race], I had no physical strength left, but my spirit carried me."
Gleason still taps those resources today, even though he hasn't run competitively since he left Utah State after his freshman season two years ago.
Gleason, a three-time Times' Orange County runner of the year at Mission Viejo High from 1996-98, has been living in Bristol, England, the last 17 months, serving a two-year mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Gleason, 20, said he's having the time of his life, despite a regimented schedule that includes studying his religion six days a week and sharing his knowledge, door to door, with many of the 500,000 residents of Bristol, the largest city in southwest England.
Gleason has been a leader since arriving in Bristol, occupying one of 12 supervisory positions among the 180 missionaries, most of whom are young men from age 19 to 25.
The missionaries are paired with a "companion" and live separately throughout the city. Gleason and his companion, Craig Simpson, share a narrow, three-story apartment in the heart of the city.
Simpson, who grew up in Leeds, which is only about three hours away, said Gleason's running exploits are well known among the missionaries.
"He talks about it quite a lot," Simpson said. "Every day he wakes up and says we should go running, but that's not my forte."
Gleason uses his success as a runner to motivate himself and other missionaries to walk that extra mile or study another hour.
"It's an opportunity to share what has made me not only successful in life, but successful as a runner," Gleason said.
Gleason still manages an occasional jog along the River Avon, near William Shakespeare's birthplace, but competitive training is something he has learned to live without.
"He considers [this mission] harder than anything he has ever done, including running," said Gleason's father, Dennis. "When you're 19 to 21 years old and not able to date and do the things most other kids are doing, it can be difficult."
In addition to the absence from his college's track and cross-country teams, Gleason is separated from his family. He is permitted to speak with them only on Christmas and Mother's Day, and he won't see two of his three brothers for nearly four years.
David, one of his two younger brothers, will leave on his mission just before Mark returns.
His older brother, Ryan, completed his mission in Birmingham, England, just after Mark began his. On the way home, Ryan and their parents stopped in Bristol for an emotional three-hour reunion.
"It was gut-wrenching, saying goodbye a second time," Mark said. "After that, I cried on someone's doorstep while trying to share the message. I had to tell them about my family and how I just had to say goodbye to them again."
It seems a harsh way to spend the early days of manhood, but Gleason wouldn't trade his experience for an Olympic medal.
"To the rest of the world it might seem like a sacrifice," he said. "But I'm having too much fun and learning too much."
Gleason plans to rejoin his Utah State teammates when his mission is completed in September. It's too early to tell if the hiatus will impact Gleason's development as a collegiate runner, but Gregg Gensil, in his 19th year as Aggie track coach, says Gleason has a bright future.
"Almost everyone has gotten better when they've returned [from a mission]," Gensil said. "They physically mature, even though they're not running, but most importantly, they mature mentally."
Gleason, whose family moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah, shortly after he graduated from Mission Viejo, is also eager to marry and start a family when he returns.
Getting back in competitive shape is also high on his list, even if it will take a few months.
"I know I will get back to that level, if it's something I want to do," he said. "Right now, as I sit here, it's definitely something I want to do. My future family is a priority, but I'm going to get back in shape, stay in shape and get back to the level I've dreamed about."
Gleason's trail of success dates to 1996, when he won individual cross-country titles at the Orange County Championships and the Southern Section Division II finals as a junior, earning The Times' Orange County runner-of-the-year honors.
The following season, Gleason became only the second runner from the county to win a state cross-country title, posting the fastest time of the meet in the Division II final. He also qualified for the national championships after finishing fifth at the Foot Locker West Regional Championships.
His accomplishments during his senior track and field season were just as remarkable.