Friday, August 18, 2017

An interview with Windham’s own Rob Gomez by Lorraine Glowczak

Although news of Rob Gomez may be considered “old news”, one never tires of heart rendering stories with good deeds as its main theme. 
In case you have given up media in all forms this past week and need a recap, the brief background story goes like this: Gomez of Windham ran the Beach to Beacon 10k road race on Saturday, August 5; so did Jesse Orach of Gorham. Orach was in the final 50 meters when he collapsed for a second time due to a heatstroke. Gomez, who was directly behind Orach, picked up Orach by his shirt and helped him across the finish line and thus forfeiting his own first-place win and a chance at $500. 

So I got to catch up with Gomez the other day and we had a nice e-mail conversation. Although, we rarely publish “interview style” articles, we thought this was an exception to the rule.

Editor: For most running competitors, the goal is to set a new personal record and to cross the finish line first. Why did you choose to act differently?

Gomez: I wanted to accomplish those very things on Saturday, but by the time I saw Jesse I knew I wasn't going to set a PR that day. I also knew I didn't want to be the first Maine finisher simply
because the guy ahead of me, well ahead of me, fell just before the finish. It wouldn't have been a good feeling for me personally . . . almost like I finished first by default. So I made the split second decision to get Jesse what I felt he deserved. I know everyone doesn't agree that Jesse deserved to win, but I guess the only sentiment that mattered at the time was mine, Jesse's and the finish line referees - and Jesse couldn't speak at the time!

Editor: Is there someone in your life who taught you to give and to be selfless?

Gomez: I'm so glad you asked this because she deserves to be recognized. Any act of selflessness I exhibit comes directly from my mother. I'm biased of course, but I feel she is literally the most selfless person in the world. Anyone who knows her even a little would tend to agree with me. The only time I've choked up talking about this, has been when I first saw my mom after speaking to the media past the finish line. The expression on her face nearly made me burst into tears!

Editor: You have a lot of admirers out there now (including those from other countries). But what is important are the children who hear about your story. What advice would you like to give those children so that they are motivated to choose kindness and respect for others?

Gomez: Honestly, I think I did what I did at the time because I knew I personally would feel better about myself if I didn't pass Jesse while he was struggling to get to his feet so close to the finish. Being respectful, kind and charitable makes me feel good, and I suspect it makes others feel good too. I gave up $500 in prize money and a first place position by my decision, but I knew that money and that first place trophy couldn't replace the feeling I get by helping someone else and doing the right thing. No amount of money or accolades is worth doing the wrong thing. It will nag at you, haunt you and make you feel uneasy about yourself. Doing the right thing is the better choice, every time; and being kind and respectful is always the right thing to do.

Editor: When did you know that running was “in your blood” and that you would like to pursue long distance competitions?

Gomez: I ran competitively in high school and college and took some time off after college and put on a bunch of weight. After three years away from running and 55 additional pounds, I knew I was missing it. That time off helped me appreciate what running does for me . . .  it provides  me with mental clarity on a daily basis, gives me a healthy lifestyle, and most importantly, surrounds me with a community of friendly, healthy, and motivated individuals. I missed all of that when I took time off, and taking that time off made me realize I will never be away from it for that long again.

Editor: Did (or do you) face any challenges in reaching your running goals? If so, how do you overcome them?

Gomez: Time. Time is the enemy of anyone who tries to run competitively and live a normal life with a job, a family, a house, and all the other priorities that come along with normal life. I believe most people who don't run but want to,  just can't do it because they simply don't have the time to run and train consistently. I've overcome it by making running a lifestyle, deliberately carving out time each day for it, and streamlining my life so that I can manage everything and still have time to run. I prioritize running right up there next to the other important things in life, and because of that I'm able to get in the running time I need to.

Editor: And, last – Windham is proud that you are among one of the members in the community. Have you always made Windham your home? If not, where are you from originally?

Gomez: I am originally from Waldoboro and have spent time living in Limestone, Lewiston, Orono, Biddeford, Saco and Portland, prior to buying a house in Windham in late 2015. I’m looking forward to having my family be a part of the Windham community for many years to come! We really enjoy it here.

Thank you, Mr. Gomez!

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