GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s not how you start the race, it’s how you finish.
It was perhaps the most exciting finish in the River Banks Run’s 38 year history as Jared Ward caught Lindsey Scherf in the final 200 meters — to win the race out right.
It was the newest edition to the largest 25K in the country. Let the women leave early, put money on the line and see if the men can catch them over the 15 mile plus course. The first person to cross the finish line gets $1,000.
“It was an experiment that worked. Had a chance to work together and race,” said Greg Meyer.
The women got about an 11 minute and 30 seconds head start — the difference between the 25K records between the genders.
By the time the men’s horn went off, the women were just about 2 and half miles into the course.
As the large group of men’s elite runners got their bearings on the dampened course, the field of elite shrunk to just three — Valentine Kibet, Sara Hall and Lindsey Scherf led the pack.
As the women made the turn towards the fans at Johnson Park, Scherf was racing against herself, the clock and the men who were close behind.
From the pack of the men, three emerged as contenders — Abdi Abdirahman, Jared Ward and last year’s top American finisher, Christo Landry.
By the time the group of men reached John Ball Zoo that two mile gap separating the genders was under a mile and Abdirahman had fallen back.
With under a mile to go, it was an edge of your seat finish. Scherf was still out in front as she made the turn onto Ottawa, with not much left in the tank, it turned to head games.
Ward was more concerned with winning the men’s side, but loved the added competition of catching the women.
“It was in the back of my mind, so you don’t go crazy,” said Ward.
But with about 200 meters left, Scherf had nothing left. Noticeably pulling up as Ward passed her by, breaking the tape, as the American 25K champion — the 2015 River Bank Run champion and $1,000 richer.
No hard feeling from Scherf, who finished third overall, just behind Christo Landry and Ward.
“He made me have to dig deep, very impressed,” said Scherf.
This was Scherf’s third time on the course. For Ward, it was his first.
“Loved it, fun atmosphere to race in,” said Ward.