Alex Craig: Star runner turned world-record race organizer
MATTAPOISETT — Alex Craig is already a star runner headed toward an Ivy League education at Dartmouth College. Now, he can add world-record race director to his resume.
Back when the South Coast Conference postponed fall sports in September, cross country runners like Craig had no races to look forward to until winter at the earliest. But after his private coach took him to a low-key professional meet, where top-tier athletes were getting the chance to race in the pandemic, Craig thought “we should really do something like this for high school.”
So he got to work building the Red Track Trials, a series of small races where those who lost their normal racing seasons to covid could come together and compete at a high level.
The series consisted of three races, a 5k on Sept. 26, a two-mile race on Oct. 18, and a mile on Nov. 7.
That’s where the world record in the mile was broken in the 14-year-old age category.
Marcus Reilly of Northbridge High School clocked a 4:12.77, beating his own previous record in the event.
“I think it was hugely important for a ton of people,” Craig said. “This is what every runner trains for, is to race fast. And I think providing that opportunity was great for a lot of people.”
But putting on an in-person race isn’t particularly simple, especially when you’re new to being a race director.
Craig said he had to figure out rules for social distancing, find a track and put together a field of fast runners.
“People were like, ‘is this really gonna happen?’,” he said.
Craig landed on a track in Fairhaven with no ties to any school so that he could reduce the risk of getting kicked out by security.
The 5k race didn’t have a professional timing crew, but after a friend’s parents offered to pay to have the race timed, the other two races in the series were clocked. Thanks to that, Reilly’s mile time was made official and now sits in the record books.
But even though the last two races were official, the events still had a bit of a do-it-yourself feel. Craig said that he went out and bought a whiteboard to use as a lap-counter, and entry lists were hand-written on paper.
“I discovered a lot of the challenges of being a race director,” Craig said.
But the struggle of putting together a race in a pandemic ended up being well worth it. Craig ran personal bests at all three races, and won the two-mile race in 9:07.05.
“I knew I was in shape to be running a lot faster than the times I had,” Craig said.
Craig improved his mile time from 4:19 to 4:15, and clocked a 14:54 in the 5k race.
“I was doing it as much for myself as for others,” Craig said.
He said his initiative to organize, and the improvements he made at each race earned him a bit of credit with his future teammates at Dartmouth, where he said he wanted to go even before he was fast enough to run for their team. And considering he couldn’t do the traditional overnight recruiting visit, it helped to be able to impress the team.
“Like I couldn’t meet the coaches or anything on campus,” Craig said.
Instead, he visited on his own and met the team the first time that way.
Craig said he wants to go into a scientific or math-related major in college, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s done putting races together.
“I’m gonna wait a month and play it by ear,” Craig said.
But he said that if there isn’t much going on in the spring, and covid is still cancelling seasons, he’ll put together more time trials.