Rob Gomez gets why he’s being praised as a model of sportsmanship. He just thinks people are making a bit too much of it.

“They’ve put me on a pedestal I don’t really deserve,” Gomez said Sunday. “What people saw was just an example of the running community. It’s not really special. It’s just what we do.”

Gomez, 34, had a chance to win the $1,000 prize as the top male finisher from Maine at Saturday’s TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K after front-runner Jesse Orach had fallen for a second time within sight of the finish line. Instead of running past Orach, Gomez stopped, pulled Orach to his feet and forcibly held him upright over the last 50-plus meters before giving him a final nudge forward to make sure Orach crossed the finish line first.

“It’s just that Jesse and I were in the right place at the right time for this particular story,” said Gomez, a Waldoboro native who now lives in Windham. “It happens all the time. People help other people out in other races. Maybe they don’t carry someone, but everyone wants others to succeed.”

Descriptions and images of Gomez’s selfless act have been buzzing on social media.

“The stories should all be about Rob,” Orach said Sunday. “I’m speechless with what he did. Him and I were kind of vying for that number one Mainer spot, and for him to give that up for me is pretty remarkable.”

Orach, 23, had a sizable lead when he fell the first time, on the tar path just beyond sight of the finish line. Orach said that if he’d taken longer to collect himself right then, he might have been able to finish under his own power.

“But I was so focused on getting to the finish line I stumbled forward for maybe another 10 feet and fell down again,” Orach said. “I didn’t have enough left in the bank to stand up again. I felt him grab my shirt and pull me up.”

GROUNDS FOR DISQUALIFICATION

While the vast majority of social media comments lauded Gomez’s sportsmanship, a few have noted that either runner – or both – should have been disqualified for giving or receiving assistance.

Race officials acknowledged Saturday that Gomez’s actions could be grounds for a disqualification, but they had no intention of disqualifying either runner.

Gomez said such punishment “didn’t cross my mind” at the time.

“And, even if he or I or both of us had been disqualified, I really don’t think I would have gone home feeling bad about it,” Gomez said. “I don’t know if he could have gotten up on his own at that point and, honestly, it’s just a road race. We’re in a fortunate position of not running to support a family but running for the competitiveness and to be part of the camaraderie of the running community here in Maine.

“It wouldn’t have felt right for me to go past him and win that.”

Others wondered how Gomez could pass up winning himself, especially since the top Maine man gets a $1,000 prize. Second place is worth $500.

“It wasn’t a calculated decision,” he said. “It wasn’t because I’m some sort of hero or some sort of special person, because I’m not. As runners, we understand, we pick each other up and help each other.”

Orach said he will ask Beach to Beacon officials to split the first- and second-place prize money evenly.

Being generous with other runners is something Gomez can appreciate. He provides online training advice to casual and serious runners through his small business, Eastern Shore Training. For about $10 a week, Gomez develops a training plan and then communicates advice and encouragement through email and text to his clients for the duration of the plan, typically 12 to 24 weeks long.

“At Beach to Beacon I saw a ton of clients or people I’ve coached in the past, and it’s a really good feeling to talk to them about their race,” Gomez said. “Everyone has their own goal and their own story.”

STOPS, STARTS AND SUCCESSES

Gomez’s personal running story has some interesting arcs.

Growing up in midcoast Maine, he ran a bit in middle school and the first two years of high school at Medomak Valley in Waldoboro. It was when he transferred to the Maine School of Science and Math in Limestone that his interest in running increased. Running for Limestone High as part of a cooperative arrangement, Gomez won the state Class D cross-country championship in 1999 and 2000.

His success caught the eye of some college coaches, and he competed in cross-country and track for three years at Bates College in Lewiston.

Then on Aug. 5, 2004, his daughter, Juliette Gomez Lawson, was born. Gomez Lawson lives with her mother and stepfather in Winthrop.

“Saturday was her 13th birthday,” Gomez said. “I kind of thought it was funny that right when she hit her teenage years I found a way to hit the newspapers and embarrass her.”

Gomez stopped running for two years after Juliette’s birth, and before long had gained over 50 pounds.

In 2006, he realized he was winded after climbing two flights of stairs. So he and a childhood friend made a pact to get in shape and run the 2007 Chicago Marathon.

“That was the year it was so hot they cut the race short, but I caught the running bug again,” Gomez said.

Since then, Gomez has become one of Maine’s top road racers. He said his “sweetest” win was at the 2013 Maine Marathon. That year offered two other highlights: Gomez ran his marathon personal-best of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 53 seconds at the Boston Marathon, and met his future wife, Breagh (Macauley) Gomez, a native of Nova Scotia and now a Scarborough police officer. The couple met while running for opposing teams in the Cabot Trail Relay Race in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Gomez and Orach said they had never met formally before Friday’s Beach to Beacon pre-race news conference, when they learned that both are engineers.

Gomez has worked for nine years at General Dynamics OTS in Saco, which makes medium-caliber weapons systems for the military. Orach works as a process engineer optimizing production at the Verso Corp. paper mill in Jay.

Orach said he first raced against Gomez about eight years ago. Orach was a hometown high schooler running in a Thanksgiving Day 5K in Gorham.

“Rob ended up winning it and he broke 16 minutes, so I thought he was a superhero or something,” Orach said.

Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at:

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