One of the true gems on the American road racing tour, the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K, held its pre-race press conference this morning at the Inn by the Sea overlooking the glistening Atlantic Ocean in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Race founder, 1984 Olympic Marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson, along with race director Dave McGillivray and race president Dave Weatherbie presided.
6500 runners from 12 nations and 43 states will compete over the rolling 10k course which Joanie once trained on growing up in Cape Elizabeth. Tomorrow will welcome the 60,000th
finisher in race history at Fort Williams Park beneath the shadow of the Portland Head Light, the oldest commissioned light house in America. Over 350,000 total miles will have been raced in event history, and more than $800,000 will have been raised for Maine-based
This year Day One, a non-profit agency providing substance abuse counseling, prevention, treatment and aftercare programs, will be the recipient of the event’s contribution.
“Day One has been trying to get to get in (as race beneficiary) for years,” admitted Day One executive director David Faulkner. “Adolescent substance abuse is something people have a tendency to either deny or ignore. But Maine is among the top 10 states in adolescent substance abuse.”
Organizing committee president Dave Weatherbie introduced the top Maine division racers, which will be missing defending champion Patrick Tarpy of Yarmouth, who is attending a wedding. However, the highly competitive Maine division will include for the first time former Stanford University 10X All-American Louie Luchini, 30, who is now a state representative from Ellsworth.
Perhaps the most anticipated Maine race will be in the women’s division. Training partners Sheri Piers, 40 of Falmouth, the 2009 champion and Maine course record holder (34:17), Kristen Barry, 37, of Scarborough, the 2008 & 2010 champion, and Erica Jesseman, 22, also of Scarborough, have been trading wins at the big Maine races all summer. Piers and Barry will have to have a cushion to hold off the kick of Jesseman.
Next elite athlete coordinator Larry Barthlow, who is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, introduced the professional field, perhaps the strongest in event history.
Three-time champion (2003-`05) and course record (27:28 in `03) Gilbert Okari of Kenya returns, along with 2008 & `09 winner and countryman Ed Muge. However, 2010
champion Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia will not defend, as the Ethiopian federation kept him at home to prep for the World Championships Marathon in early September in Daegu, South Korea.
Last weekend’s Bix 7 Road Race runner up Allan Kiprono and third-placer Lani Rutto will relish the cooler and less humid conditions, but the men I want to watch will be Micah Kogo and Lucas Rotich. Kogo is the former road 10K world record holder with his PR of 27:01. He also holds one of history’s fastest track 10,000 times of 26:35. He ran last week’s Kenyan National Championships in Nairobi, but dropped out of the 10,000 meters. He’ll be looking for redemption in Cape Elizabeth.
Lucas Rotich comes to the roads from the Samsung Diamond League track tour, indicating her might be the sharpest of the competitors if the time zone changes don’t dull his edge.
He ran 27:12 for 10,000 meters in Eugene, Oregon earlier this year, and recently clocked 13:11 for 5000 meters at the Monaco Grand Prix where he got tangled up with American Galen Rupp. Top American in the field is Patrick Smyth out of Mammoth Lakes, California.
The women’s field is headed by 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medalist Deena Kastor who is making her debut at Beach to Beacon as she zeroes in on the Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston next January. Deena brought husband Andrew and their young daughter Piper, but Deena missed the press conference as she woke up a bit under the weather. Five-time Beach to Beacon women’s champion and two-time Olympic Marathon silver medalist Catherine Ndereba, 39, of Kenya also graces the field.
But both Deena and Catherine will have some young legs to contend with. 2011 Los Angeles and Rock `n` Roll San Diego Marathon champion Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia looks ready to replace her 32:37 road PR. Buzunesh lives in New York City, and won the Healthy Kidney 10K this spring in Central Park. Two-time Carlsbad 5000 winner Aheza Kiros, also of Ethiopia, brings her 31:07 track 10,000 meter speed to the rolling hills of Cape Elizabeth, while Bix 7 runner up Jelliah Tinega of Kenya and Bix show-placer, former University of Iowa star Diane Nukuri-Johnson of Burundi come into Maine fresh off the heat and humidity of the Quad Cities.
Limited to just 6500 runners, the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K is one of the most coveted race numbers in the sport, a testament to what race director Dave McGillivray calls the “Six Magic Bullets”: the organization, the elite field and its home-stay program where the top runners stay with local families rather than in local hotels, the beautiful course, sponsors, community support, and “our secret weapon, Joan Benoit Samuelson”.
“It’s important for people to dream,” Joanie told the assemblage gathered beneath a white tent on the spread of green lawn on a glorious summer morning. “And this 14th
year has superseded all previous years. We are alive and well.”
I’d say better than ever.