The 2014 TD Beach to Beacon 10K professional fields gathered at the elegant Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine this morning to be introduced to the media one day before the 17th running of the classic road race founded by local girl made good Joan Benoit Samuelson. Three times in its first 16 years the rolling B2B 10K has produced the fastest road 10K of the year, including in 2003 when Gilbert Okari of Kenya established the standing course record of 27:28. This year the best mark for the distance is held by Wilson Kiprono Too of Kenya while winning the Laredo 10K in Spain March 22nd in 27:39.
With defending champion and 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist Micah Kogo (28:02) leading another strong east African contingent, depending on how aggressive the field is, that world-leading time may again come under pressure on the rolling, but net downhill layout.
Challenging Kogo will be race favorite Bedan Karoki, a Japanese trained Kenyan who has run personal bests this year over 5000 (13:15); 10,000 (26:52); 10K road (28:35); and the half-marathon (59:58). The 5000 was run July 2nd in Kitami, Japan. Karoki has already asked what the course record is, so one assumes that wasn’t an idle thought. Karoki finished 5th in the 2012 Olympic 10,000 meters, after earning a silver medal at the All-Africa Games in 2011.
Former marathon world record holder Patrick Makau is also making his debut on the B2B course. The two-time World Half Marathon silver medalist carries the fastest 10K PR into the race at 27:27. But the two-time Berlin Marathon champion lost most of 2013 to injury, and is racing for the first time since his only other 2014 competition, a 1:08:42 at The Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon in April.
“Patrick asked for a 10 km this month, and a half in October,” wrote his agent Zane Branson. “Then he will run a marathon in the late autumn. He has been training well since April and is relaxed and upbeat about getting back into the top level. We’ll see how it goes for him tomorrow. I will be happy to see him competitive but no big expectations.”
One of the most experienced men on the Cape Elizabeth layout is Stephen Kibet. Kibet has placed fourth in 2013, second in 2012 and fourth in 2010.
The deep American field is topped by North Yarmouth, Maine native Ben True. The Dartmouth grad who now trains in Hanover, N.H. with former Liberty University NCAA 10,000m record holder Sam Chelanga (also running strong) is coming off a so-so 11th place finish at the Paris Diamond League 5000 July 5th. But he has a raft of experience on the course here in Cape Elizabeth, finishing 10th in 2009 in his best previous showing. That mark should easily fall tomorrow as Ben must be considered among the favorites for at least a podium position. His sixth place finish at the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Poland may still be the defining race of his budding career, though a runner up spot at the 2013 Falmouth Road Race (behind Micah Kogo) and another close second at this April’s BAA 5K in an all but dead heat with Olympic 5000m silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel, was eye-opening as well. He is the two-time reigning U.S. 15K road champion, so the longer distance should not be a major impediment.
“My goal is to win every time,” he told me. “Most of these guys are marathon men, so they are stronger than me. My goal is to hang on as long as I can.” The inference being that if he can reduce the race to a short struggle, his 5000 meter prowess might prove decisive.
America’s new favorite runner Meb Keflezighi continues his Boston Marathon victory tour here at the Beach to Beacon. Meb has had a hamstring issue of late brought on by all the travel since his historic win in Boston this past April. Last weekend in Davenport, Iowa Meb led the pack for 5 miles at the QC Times Bix 7 Road Race before fading to 12th place at the finish. Since then he has gone on to give a speech in Chicago and announced his participation in the November TCS New York City Marathon. But with his wife Yordanos and their three girls Sara, Fiyori, and Yohanna traveling with him, Meb is enjoying the continued celebration of his glorious romp last Patriot’s Day. Don’t expect a high place for him, only a thunderous welcome whenever he comes across the Ft. Williams Park finish line.
WOMEN’S RACE FIELD STACKED
The women’s field lost two of its biggest stars yesterday when the Kenyan Olympic Committee refused to allow defending champion Joyce Chepkirui from returning along with fellow Commonwealth Games 10,000 meter medalist and 2012 B2B runnerup Emily Chebet. Joyce won gold last Tuesday in Glascow, Scotland, Emily took bronze. Chepkirui also holds the fastest road 10K of 2014, 30:56 from the Prague 10K in April. Both women had planned on racing B2B 10K after the Commonwealth Games quite some time ago, but were forced to bend to Olympic Committee pressure. Such are the vagaries of international competition where road racing continues to be seen as the poor cousin of track.
Gaining by the two Kenyans loss will be Ethiopia’s Asselefech Mergia, a two-time Dubai Marathon champion with a best of 2:19:31, and Tadelech Bekele who has a road PR of 30:38 from 2013. Mergia was also the bronze medalist in the 2009 World Championships at 10,000 meters. She holds a PR of 31:25.
Just as Ben True has a realistic shot at the men’s crown, so too does native New Englander and 2008 Olympic 10,000 meter bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan. Coming off her own sterling run at the Boston Marathon this April where she led the women’s race until 19 miles before finishing seventh in 2:22:02, the 33 year-old Marblehead, Mass. native is on home turf, anxious to prove fitness as she ramps up for the BMW Berlin Marathon this September. With her expressed goal of taking down Deena Kastor’s 2006 American marathon record, 2:19:36, a good performance in Cape Elizabeth will go a long way toward making that target attainable. Shalane is coming off a strong 1:09:45 win at the Rock `n` Roll Running Festival in Chicago to take on the B2B course for the first time since running it as a Marblehead High School student.
Desiree Linden, Jordan Hasay, Alexi Pappas, and Blake Russell round out the strong American women’s contingent.
New York Road Runners board president George Hirsch is on hand to be the official race starter. I will have a race wrap up some time tomorrow. Till then…