DALLAS -- Alex Bird and Clay Stuhr have been the two premier long-distance runners at Dallas High School for the past two years. Whether it's cross country or track and field, the two never seem to be far apart.
That pattern continued July 30 during the Summerfest Fun Run 10-kilometer race. But this time there was a difference. Stuhr, suffering from a bit of knee tendinitis, had the benefit of gears and wheels this time around. He road a bicycle around the course, serving as the leader for the group of 25 runners in the 10k event.
"In the morning, I was kind of nervous at first," said Bird. "I wasn't sure what to expect of it. I was glad my friend Clay Stuhr was on the bike. He was the rabbit for the whole race. He really pushed me and supported me and helped me a lot. I basically just had to follow him.
"Sometimes I run with my mom (Tamera) and she rides her bike as well. It basically reminded me of that."
The 10K race was the first of four Summerfest Fun Runs. It was followed by a 5K walk, a 5K run and a half-mile Kids fun run.
Bird won the 10K event, which was a new addition to the Summerfest lineup, by a wide margin. He finished in 36 minutes, 45 seconds. Second-place finisher Joe Gumpinger was timed in 43:42.
"I had never actually run a 10K race before," Bird said. "I was pretty nervous. I'd only run in 5Ks before. It was a new experience for me. I just decided to give it my all because I really wanted to challenge myself."
In track, Bird runs the 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters. Cross country races normally are 5,000 meters and feature more than just left turns.
"It's a lot different," Bird said of the two sports. "In track you just run around in circles and run laps. In 10Ks, you're on all different kinds of roads and trails and everything. Overall, I prefer trails and cross country more than track."
Bird easily reached his goal for the Fun Run, which was held under sunny skies and in warm conditions.
"I wanted to go under 40 minutes," he said. "That would be around a 6:30-mile pace. It completely surprised me that I ran about a 5:50-mile pace. The hardest part of the race was running through the arboretum in the park. That was one of the last parts. That probably was my most challenging mile.
"Toward the end, I was getting pretty tired. But I knew I just had a little distance to go. Clay was saying, 'Come on. There's only one mile to go.' I was pushing with whatever I had left in the tank."
Bird and Stuhr, expected to return soon from his tendinitis, last year led Dallas to one of its best cross country seasons in recent memory. The two have even higher expectations for 2011.
"We've really been trying to focus on our summer workouts," Bird, approaching his senior year, said. "That will give us a strong base so we'll have a better chance to make it to state. This is my last year with Dallas cross country. I really want to push it to make my chances of going to state a lot higher."
Ryan Hansen of Dallas was the first of 74 finishers in the 5K run with a time of 5:39.
Dillon Stuhr, 8, of Dallas took first place in the 5K walk with a clocking of 13:30.
Bekah Rocak, 10, of Dallas finished first in the Kids Fun Run with a time of 11:25.
"My sister (Catherine) ran in the 5K," said Bekah Rocak. "I wanted to do it, too, and I did it. I was a little nervous. I thought some of the little kids my beat me, but they didn't. My sister was yelling at me to sprint. I was really tired, but I sprinted anyway. I was happy and kind of glad when it was over because I was tired."