Here’s the thing about what Rob Gomez did shortly before the finish line of the 20th Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race:

He reacted.

No foresight. No weighing pros and cons. No considering an ethical dilemma.

Gomez, running second in the Maine men’s division of a race he had never won, approached the final Fort Williams curve and saw Jesse Orach, defending Maine champion, slumped on the ground, suffering from heat stroke.

“I couldn’t let him stay there,” said Gomez, 34, a Waldoboro native who lives in Windham. “He had run so hard and run so well that I had to pick him up and carry him across the line.”

With a firm hold on one shoulder and a stabilizing hand in the back, Gomez lifted 23-year-old Orach to his feet and guided him over the grass for 75 feet before Orach finally pitched forward, rolling to his back and gasping for air.


“I feel bad,” Gomez said. “I kind of shoved him across the mat.”

Of course, nearly everyone else felt good about such a selfless display of sportsmanship, including finish-line judges who, by strict rules of interpretation, could have disqualified both runners. Wisely, common sense prevailed.

As a result, the actions of the guy who refused to win won the day. At Orach’s request, organizers split the prize money ($1,000 for first, $500 for second), with each runner also donating $150 to race charity Let’s Go. Social media was abuzz with praise for Gomez. Even the “Today” show gave him props.

Gomez’s mother, a longtime waitress at Moody’s Diner, still hears about it.

“I tried to deflect some of that praise because I really don’t feel like I deserve it,” Gomez said. “The one thing that did change for me is that getting the accolades I did made me realize I want to live up to what people think I am.”

Orach and Gomez met again last month in a 5K in Gorham, the week after Gomez had placed seventh in the Philadelphia Marathon.

“He beat the pants off me,” Gomez said with a laugh.

They plan to meet this winter for weekly indoor workouts. Gomez told Orach not to expect another lift next August, because Gomez figures he’ll be first to arrive at Fort Williams.

“So if he happens to fall again,” Gomez said, “I won’t be there to take him across.”

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