Cross Country: Sandburg runners sweep Northside/Southside Challenge titles

Updated: October 8, 2012 9:11PM

The serious races will come soon enough for Sandburg cross country runners Pat McMahon and Carly Krull.

Sunday morning was about something else: running on part of an iconic course with not much at stake other than geographic bragging rights.

The event was the Nike Northside/Southside Challenge, contested on the final 2.62 miles of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon course starting on the Near South Side and finishing up along Columbus Drive in Grant Park.

“It’s a lot of fun, it’s a beautiful race,” said McMahon, who edged teammate Chris Hogan by two seconds to win the boys race in 13 minutes, 7 seconds.

This was McMahon’s third time running the challenge, and the feeling hasn’t gotten old.

“It did make it a little easier,” he said. “It’s nice to have a feel for any course you go to. But it’s such an amazing opportunity to run down here.”

The shorter than usual distance (most prep races are three miles) and the surface of the course – asphalt and concrete – aren’t like any other cross country race. The latter had McMahon and other runners switching from their usual spikes to lightweight training shoes, which added yet another different wrinkle.

With all those variables, McMahon was thinking more about place than time on Sunday.

“I always want to win,” he said. “Maybe the last mile [split] I’m going to pay attention to, just to see how I closed.”

His focus is more on the coming postseason races, beginning with conference next week, followed by the IHSA state series.

“It’s had some ups and downs so far,” McMahon said of his season. “I was sick earlier in the season but I’m back healthy, I’m ready to go.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape. Our goal for the season is just to progress so we’re at our peak at the very end, and we’re getting there.”

Krull was an easy winner in the girls race, running 15:18 to finish 57 seconds ahead of runner-up Grace Foley, also of Sandburg.

Unlike McMahon, she hadn’t seen the course before, let alone run it. “Thank God there was a [pace] car in front of me to follow,” she said jokingly.

But like McMahon, she couldn’t help but get caught up in the moment as she coasted home toward the same finish line the elite runners would cross later.

“It’s cool to be out here with all the marathoners,” she said. “It was definitely a different experience on the roads.”

Different and successful, for both Sandburg runners.

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