Larry Taylor should make a habit out of feeling sluggish before races. When he does, he runs his best times.
Taylor, of Fayetteville, said he felt exactly that before the start of Saturday's West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival 5K on Emily Drive at Eastpointe. All he did was win with a time of 15:46 to break the course record by 8 seconds.
By doing so, he retains a strong hold on the top spot of the Clarksburg Area Racing Series. But he was tested Saturday down to the final 100 meters.
Matt Bear held Taylor in check and actually had him beat coming out of the Wal-Mart parking lot. But Taylor closed the gap and passed him for the victory.
"For awhile, I didn't think I was going to get it," Taylor said. "In the last half-mile, he got ahead, and I stayed (close behind). At about the last 100 meters, I took off. It was all guts right there. That's what I've been doing all year is running on guts. I took my watch off and wasn't worried about my time -- just going all out -- and in the end, it paid off."
The competition, both in quality and numbers, was thick. Between 300 and 400 runners started the race, and 284 finished, race director Larry Cann said.
It was that competition that kept Taylor going.
"If it wasn't for these guys (competition), I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing," he said. "I'm 40 years old. There's no way I should be running these times. But they keep me going."
Taylor beat Bear by 2 seconds, and Daniel Edgell was third at 16:11. Notre Dame's Kenny Beerbower was sixth (16:25), and Aaron Kaylor, a competitor with Taylor in the CARS, was ninth (17:24).
Heather Bury, of Morgantown, defended her women's title with a time of 17:50, good enough for 10th overall. She placed ahead of Robert C. Byrd's Stephanie Hatfield (19:55) and Ashley Wilson (21:15).
Although Bury won the women's race, she was using it as a tune-up for nationals Thursday in Eugene, Ore.
"It's not really a race but a tempo run here," she said. "I didn't really compete for a time. I just came out to run hard. If I was really going for the record, then I would have kept my time."
The humidity acted as a neutralizer of the course's flatness to provide for an overall balanced run. The hardest part of the course comes in the second mile, Taylor said.
"In the first mile, you're fresh and you don't run too fast," he said. "But as soon as you make the turn around and start back, it starts hitting you on that gradual uphill. After that, you can recover."
The population of Saturday's race should make for increased participation in the 2001 CARS, Cann said. The WVIHF is the first CARS race of the year in Harrison County.
Taylor is still No. 1 in points, but there won't be too much movement, because most of the runners toward the top attended Saturday's race.
"By missing the race, somebody won't get the points added in on this one, but they'll pick it up in the later ones," Cann said.
The next event in the CARS is the Benedum 5K, on date.
Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at email@example.com.