Steve Cuttitta curled around a point on the mountain and began his slow descent toward the finish line. For the final minute of the 2012 Mid Mountain Marathon Saturday, the Park City High School 12th-grade English teacher was the only visible runner on the course.
Participating in the marathon for a fourth time, Cuttitta crossed as the victor for the first time with a time of 3:01:55.8.
Also a coach for the Park City High School cross-country team, Cuttitta, a Heber resident, took a few minutes to catch his breath before answering a question most are curious about: What do you think of when you're running for three-plus hours?
"For the first couple hours, you're just trying to stay relaxed and not trying to push it too hard," he said. "I just keep telling myself to breathe easy because it's such a long race -- I was able to hang in there."
According to second-place finisher Dominick Layfield, Cuttitta did more than just hang in there. A former Mid Mountain Marathon winner himself, Layfield, a Park City resident, said Cuttitta put on the burners in the most difficult part of the race. As the two reached the 15-to-20-mile stretch of the marathon beginning near The Colony, Cuttitta found another gear.
"He pushed really hard at that stage," Layfield explained. "I pretty much caught up to him there, and I thought, 'Take it easy and don't get left,' but he just then floored the gas and took off away from me. I thought, 'I'm going to have to let him go.
Despite separating himself from Layfield in the most arduous section of the race, Cuttitta was modest in his explanation.
"Miles 15 to 20 is absolute hell," he said. "I kind of waited until I got there. I wasn't even leading until I got there. I made my move. Then, on the downhills, I just tried to survive and not fall flat on my face.
"I knew that was coming and I just had to survive it."
Layfield, who was participating in his seventh Mid Mountain Marathon, finished second, less than two minutes behind Cuttitta with a final time of 03:03:15. Getting back atop the field is his goal going forward and he said he will be back in 2013 in search of another first-place finish.
"It's tempting to see somebody in front of you and think, 'Oh, I can take him.' It's just a matter of holding on," he said, describing his mindset during the marathon. "The nice thing is, once you've run one of these races, you know what your body can do and when to back off.
"One of these years I'll be able to win again. I'll be an old man and I'll have to figure out devious ways to take shortcuts on the course. I'll be back."
Asked if he'll be bragging about his victory to his Miner runners, Cuttitta said,
"No. They can still beat me in a 5K. I don't have anything on them."
As Cuttitta and Layfield jockeyed for position throughout the morning, Elizabeth Butler dominated the women's Mid Mountain Marathon (3:22:02.8), finishing more than 16 minutes ahead of second-place Nancy Russell of South Jordan.
Butler, a previous winner of the women's Mid Mountain Marathon, had to push herself Saturday for a good reason. She had to catch a 2:05 p.m. flight out of Salt Lake City to attend a wedding in Arizona.
"I felt good," she said. "I got out faster today than I did last time and that helps because it gives you more space to go. I just like this trail because there are (enough dips) where you can control your momentum.
"I knew I wanted to go fast because I had a time limit. I was hoping to win."
For full results of the 2012 Mid-Mountain Marathon, please see the scoreboard page on B-6.>