Most of the time, Gavin Moore is an ordinary pre-teen boy who loves playing video games and sports and riding his skateboard or surfboard with his friends. Other times, he’s out for an 8-hour run, leaving grown men who have raced all their lives in the dust.
“I want to make running a lifetime thing and just be happy with it,” Moore said. “Go to college, maybe even the Olympics.”
Forgive him if he makes such a bold statement so casually — he’s only 12, and frankly, it’s not an unrealistic goal.
Moore has shown he has a rare and natural ability for distance running since he started pounding the pavement in first grade. He stayed after school one day to run with a sixth-grader who ran cross country and was immediately hooked, so he began pushing his parents for more opportunities to train and race, starting with local 5K road races and steadily pushing himself harder.
“He always wanted that next distance or goal time,” Gavin’s mother, Emily, said. “He joined the Beaufort Track Club because he was craving more. We let him be the guide and set his goals.”
For the past several months, he has been focused on training for the Cremator Ultra, a 50-mile grind contested on a fully-exposed 12.5-mile stretch of road in Beaufort in the middle of July, when the temperature routinely pushes triple digits and the heat index easily exceeds 100 degrees.
Such was the case July 12, when Moore was one of only seven runners who completed the race. But he didn’t just complete it — he blazed through the four 12.5-mile legs of the race in 7 hours, 49 minutes, and 40 seconds, more than an hour faster than runner-up Ryan Dunn.
Moore had a gameplan for the Cremator, and he was able to stick to it. He went out in a crisp 8:30 mile pace and kept his first 30 miles under 9-minute pace before easing off a bit. He was all alone by the first checkpoint at 12.5 miles, but he still found an extra gear at the end, pushing back under the 9-minute pace for the final four miles.
“I just wanted to get it over with,” Moore recalls. “It was so hot.”
Moore is already something of a celebrity around Beaufort, drawing plenty of honks and waves from neighbors who see him putting in work on the roads and trails where he typically runs 35-50 miles per week. He hopes to raise his profile while reducing his mileage this fall — the first year he is eligible to compete for the Beaufort High School cross country team, a moment he has looked forward to for years while training with the Eagles’ top runners.
“Gavin is a phenomenal athlete,” said Marlon Belden, who was the Class 4A state runner-up for the Eagles as a junior last fall. “His potential is truly limitless, and to think he hasn’t even started running at the high school level yet is beyond exciting. When you have a kid with that much passion, in combination with an unmatched work ethic, you are bound to see some national records fall. We have all been betting on this kid for years. He’s a hometown hero and will continue to excel in this sport at every level.”
It’s not just his future high school teammates who have taken Moore under their wing. He gives a lot of the credit for his success to local distance runners Tim Waz and Stephen Noble, who have trained with him for several years and nurtured his unique ability.
Moore ran his first 50K at age 9 and has since completed two marathons, two more 50Ks, including a trail race, and now the 50-mile Cremator. He already holds age-group state records in the 5K, 8K, 10-mile, and marathon. Just how far Moore can push himself is yet to be seen, and he and his family know his talent could be fleeting. As he ages and matures, his body will change, and that might dictate whether he focuses on speed, endurance, or something in between.
“He’s a small kid but it’s never stopped him,” Belden said. “It might even work to his advantage if his growth is steady.”
An unexpected growth spurt might change Gavin Moore’s focus and his goals, but it won’t be able to derail his drive and work ethic, nor the intrinsic motivation to be the best he can be.
“Winning is nice,” Moore says, “but time … If I get my PR, I’m always going to be more happy than if I win the race.”
Story by Justin Jarrett / Submitted photos