Cape Elizabeth, ME – A race is all about urgency, whether along the cutting edge of competition itself, or in the honing of that edge leading up to the moment when the starter raises his/her arm and a hush falls over the assemblage.
Every training session, then, every meal, every elimination, every hour of sleep is oriented against that unrelenting time frame. Yet, not all races are created equal, meaning one racer’s focus may be another’s stepping stone.
Tomorrow’s 21st annual TD to Beach to Beacon 10K is one such dual purpose race. Two of the favorites going in are 2016 champion and last year’s runner-up Ben True, the North Yarmouth, Maine native who returns home from the European Diamond League track circuit, and New Zealand’s Jake Robertson who’s coming off a two month training stint at his home base in Iten, Kenya.
“Not as 10k specific,” is how Ben True characterizes his condition for tomorrow’s race. “I want to do well in the (5000m) Diamond League Final in Brussels later this month. So I haven’t tapered down for this. It will be interesting to see how the legs are tomorrow.”
Yet True, 32, the former Dartmouth College All-American, always performs well in his home state’s most prestigious race. In 2008 and 2009 he won the Maine resident’s title. Then, he returned as a pro in 2014 to place third in 27:50 – the fastest road 10K by an American in 29 years – before winning the race outright in 2016 (28:16), the first American to take the B2B title. Finally, he finished one second behind Kenya’s Stephen Kosgei-Kibet last year in 27:55.
In March, True debuted in the half marathon at the NYC Half and became the first American ever to win that big-time event. He then placed 2nd at the 2018 BAA 5K in April.
Jake Robertson, 28, is making his first appearance at Joan Samuelson’s hometown event. He and twin brother Zane moved to Kenya as 17 year-olds, and have harvested the fruits of that commitment. To date, the New Zealander is undefeated on U.S. soil in 2018. This January he took top honors at the Houston Half Marathon (60:01) against a strong international field. Then he went gun-to-tape at the Crescent City Classic 10K in New Orleans in April in a sensational 27:28, the fifth fastest road 10k in the world this year. He then set the NZL national 10,000m record (27:30.9) while placing 5th at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, one of five national records recorded in a six-week stretch.
“And I was pretty tired, too, coming off those five national records and my marathon debut (2:08:26 3rd, Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan).”
Robertson returned to his and twin brother Zane’s training base in Iten, Kenya after the Commonwealth Games for what he categorized as two months of “exceptional training”. It’s left him hungry for a big performance on the rolling hills of the B2B course.
“I’ve seen the hills, and they are nothing like the hills in Kenya,” Jake told me at today’s pre-race presser at Ft. Williams Park. “I kill the good guys in Kenya on hills, and everyone who knows me says ‘you’ve got to run the Boston Marathon’. So that’s a major target of mine in the future.”
As far as strategy for tomorrow’s race goes, Robertson is “open to anything”. At the same time, he is straight forward about his intention of wanting to take down Gilbert Okari’s 2003 course record 27:28, the same time Jake posted in winning the Crescent City Classic in April.
But the heat and humidity have been quite high in the Portland area this weekend, making records a long shot. Notwithstanding, look for Jake to team up with pals Shadrack Biwott, 33, the Kenyan-born American who showed third at this year’s Boston Marathon and Callum Hawkins, 26, the Scottish half marathon record holder (60:00) who finished 9th in the marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics and 4th at the 2017 World Championships in London. Hawkins also ran the 2018 Commonwealth Games Marathon in Australia’s Gold Coast where he infamously held a two minutes advantage entering the final mile, only to hit the wall and fail to finish.
Nevertheless, “one of us will win the race”, predicted Robertson. “Ben True might not want to be the one front running.”
How’s that for stepping out?