There’s lots of great things you could say about Nick Arciniaga.
And many in the local running community have done so since he and his equally wonderful wife Carolyn have been in town. Run Flagstaff owner Vince Sherry, for example, gave Nick a heartfelt sendoff at the annual Flagstaff running picnic at Foxglenn Park on Sunday, touching on the elite marathoner’s reliability and selflessness.
Sherry also pointed out that even though Nick willingly will help friends move even on a moment’s notice, he’s not very strong when it comes to appliances and furniture. See, he’s easy to tease too!
Nick’s own parting words are what I’m going to remember.
To set the stage: Last month, 40th annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Half Marathon. The winner, Anthony Masayesva, is already in. (Anthony, by the way, won the Full Monte Marathon in Huntsville, Utah, last weekend in 2:34.59.) Battling for second were Chris Gomez and Nick, the past two Summer Run Series champions.
In last week’s High Country Running column, volunteer race director Neil Weintraub called it his “most memorable moment” of the series this year.
“As the large crowd lining Aspen Street looked westward, two of Flagstaff’s racing icons were in a dead heat,” Weintraub wrote. “It was like watching Wild Kingdom with two gazelles stride for stride, barreling at the speed of light toward the Run Flagstaff finish line.”
The official scoring was a dead heat for second place. I messaged Nick later in the day to ask for a quote about the tie -- and whether it was REALLY a tie. I think I suggested the race timer (that would be Vince) probably rigged it to help a guy on his way out of town.
Very shortly afterward, here’s what Nick sent back to me:
“I cannot deny,
We finished in a tie.
It was a tale of two races,
Between these Flagstaff aces.
Gomez with his climbing bounds,
And me being able to give chase on the downs.
We each solo,
Until a mile to go.
Competitive nature and conversation,
Kept us stride for stride chasing Anthony from the Navajo Nation.
We finished in a sprint and a lean of the chest,
The results say we tied, if only for second best.”
Hey, I’m not claiming this is poem of the year, and I don’t think Nick was trying to express some deep meaning. But that is sort of the point.
As the poem shows, Nick is a wonderful blend of competitive and humble, both analytical and tactical, as well as self-effacing and creative. An unabashed Star Wars geek, he never worries about looking silly or trying new things, such as putting together a poem on the spur of the moment to a newspaper guy, or running a 5:01 mile in a Boba Fett costume as he did at the 2016 Downtown Mile.
While competing in some of the biggest races in the country, he also was taking part in local events, coaching Team Run Flagstaff and helping out in a million small ways that go unnoticed.
That tie was his last race as a Flagstaff resident unless we can find a way to get him to stay. Pssst, if you are one of those rare runners with upper-body strength, make him lift his own refrigerator and couch.