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One runner shocked sports purists when he sacrificed sweet victory for sportsmanship, sending a powerful message about what matters most.

One runner shocked sports purists when he sacrificed sweet victory for sportsmanship, sending a powerful message about what matters most.

In it to win it

Seasoned marathoner Rob Lopez entered the famed 10-kilometer TD Bank Beach to Beacon race in Maine in peak form and with his eye on the prize.

However, from the starter’s gate, he knew that there was one person he’d have to beat: young up-and-comer Jesse Orach.

“Jesse had a very good spring track year at UMaine. He was the favorite, and I was maybe his best competition,”

-Jesse Orach

The stakes couldn’t have been higher: Whoever finished ahead of the other would win the prized men’s Maine-resident division of the race and a cool $1,000.

With a cushy lead and approaching the finish, it looked like Orach would cruise to victory. Lopez thought so too.

“The first mile, I stuck with him,” Gomez says. “Then he pulled away. As a runner, I’ve done enough of these to know that it wasn’t going to be my day.”

Until it was.

That’s because just strides from the finish line, disaster struck Orach.

“But I was so focused on getting to the finish line I stumbled forward for maybe another 10 feet and fell down again,” he recalled.

Then the unforgettable happened.

He sacrificed victory

“It kind of seemed like it was over for me,” said Orach, “Then, I felt someone pick me up.”

Incredibly, that someone was none other than Lopez.

Turning the final corner, he spotted a collapsed Orach, picked him up and propelled him across the finish line to first place. With that, he passed up both the win and the prize money.

A winner for the right reasons

Explaining to the Press Herald, Lopez said that in that moment, camaraderie overtook competition.

“It wasn’t a calculated decision,” he said. “It wasn’t because I’m some sort of hero or some sort of special person, because I’m not. As runners, we understand, we pick each other up and help each other.”

Orach, like everyone else, was awestruck.

“I’m speechless with what he did. Him and I were kind of vying for that number one Mainer spot, and for him to give that up for me is pretty remarkable.”

– Jesse Orach

Word of Lopez’s gesture blew up Facebook, with almost 600 shares and 6,000 likes/loves along with hundreds of gushing comments.

“Now, that is sportsmanship at its finest. Thank you kind sir for being so loving for your fellow runner,” wrote one.

Added another: “Ok I’m in tears. Thank you Robert for showing all of us what true athletes, humans are capable of!”

Elevating others is what it’s really about

It almost seemed like Lopez was reading the script to the wrong movie. Most would have thought that this film would end with Lopez victorious, celebrating slow motion with the glory and money.

Instead, Lopez did what real heroes do: Elevating others and sharing the spotlight. That’s a role we can all strive for.

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