Gretchen Speed, a competitive road racer from Portland, didn’t always have such a cool runner’s name.
In 2011, the Gardiner High School graduate married her college sweetheart, Nathan Speed, and dropped her maiden name, Chick.
She considered making her married name Gretchen Speed Chick, but decided to go with just Speed. “I did have to think about it a little bit,” she admits.
As it turns out, the name not only suits her sport well, it might earn her some recognition in the international running community.
Speed, 33, who moved to Portland with her husband and 6-month-old son, Harrison, just a few weeks ago, is in the championship round of “The Best Name in Running” contest.
Sponsored by Runner’s World magazine, the online contest is set up like an NCAA basketball tournament, with four brackets and the names of 32 runners selected by Scott Douglas, a senior content editor for Runner’s World who lives and works in South Portland.
There was no particular method for choosing the runners’ names. Douglas, an avid runner himself, said he picked them from his personal experience and knowledge of the sport.
“I’m sort of the running Rain Man,” Douglas said, referring to the 1988 movie in which Dustin Hoffman portrays an autistic savant.
Online voters will pick the winner. The voting began June 23.
People can vote for their favorite runner’s name by going to the magazine’s website, www.runnersworld.com. Douglas said voting is due to end Sunday night, with the winner to be announced Monday.
Voters are down to their last two choices: Speed or Tripp Hurt.
Hurt, who just completed his junior year at Furman University in South Carolina, is a competitive steeplechaser who competed in the first round of the NCAA championships this year.
“I am pretty flattered,” Speed said in telephone interview Thursday. “I feel as though I could win it all.”
Speed beat out some pretty stiff competition to make it through her bracket, including Endurance Abinuwa, DeeDee Trotter and Usain Bolt.
Bolt is the sprinter from Jamaica whose nickname is Lightning Bolt. He is considered one of the fastest runners on the planet, if not the fastest.
Speed defeated Michael Atchoo to reach the championship. Hurt overcame a challenge from Maverick Darling for the right to meet Speed.
There’s no real prize for the winner, other than what Speed calls the “bragging rights” to having the coolest name in running.
Speed, who is a nurse practitioner, has been running competitively for years.
She placed third this year in the Sea Dogs Mother’s Day 5-kilometer race, and finished second in the Father’s Day 5K race on June 21. Speed also runs in 10K races. Her personal records are 17:27 for a 5K race and 36:38 for a 10K.
Speed keeps running to stay in shape, even if it means pushing a carriage with her infant son in it.
She plans to run in the TD Beach to Beacon 10K race next month in Cape Elizabeth. Last year, she ran in the Beach to Beacon when she was five months pregnant.
“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “I was several minutes slower than usual but I still enjoyed it.”
Douglas said Speed has “won in a landslide” in every round of the name contest, but she may have met her match in Tripp Hurt unless the voting trends change. As of Friday night, Hurt had 55.9 percent of the votes cast to Speed’s 44.1 percent.
Douglas said the numbers could change by Sunday night, with no online mechanism to prevent someone from voting over and over.
Speed didn’t even know she was a contestant until she got a phone call this week from Douglas, who wanted to ask her a few questions to fill out her profile.
Douglas said he didn’t inform the runners who were in the competition, and doubts that all of them know.