CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine – The special 10th running of the TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race on Saturday will again feature the top road racers in Maine, New England and around the globe.
The elite athletes will share the stunning seaside course in Cape Elizabeth with thousands of recreational runners who are cheered on by as many as 10,000 spectators, confirming the TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon’s reputation as a top world-class event with a special small-town charm.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the popular race, every runner will receive a commemorative medal at the finish. This year’s field of 5,500 includes runners from 23 countries and 40 U.S. states.
Nearly $60,000 in prize money is at stake, including a $10,000 prize to the top man and woman. A $2,500 bonus is available for an open course record and $500 for a course record in the Maine category, providing added incentive in a race that is consistently among the fastest and most competitive 10Ks in the world.
This year’s race beneficiary is STRIVE, a South Portland-based non-profit organization designed to address the many issues faced by developmentally disabled youth. For more info, visit http://www.pslstrive.org/. TD Banknorth, through the TD Banknorth Charitable Foundation, will provide a cash donation of $30,000, plus STRIVE will benefit from fundraising activities and publicity.
“The key to the success of the TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon for 10 years now has been the hard work of all involved, from the tireless volunteers to the dedicated runners to the welcoming Town of Cape Elizabeth to the talented race organizers,” said Larry Wold, president of TD Banknorth Maine (pictured at left) who will lace up his running shoes Saturday for his 10th Beach to Beacon. “Hats off to everyone who makes this such a special event.”
Top U.S. Runner Looking to Unseat Men’s Champ; Women’s Race Wide Open
Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi, arguably the U.S.’s top distance runner, will try to unseat returning champ Thomas Nyariki of Kenya on Saturday in his first TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon.
But as the two men found out this past weekend in Davenport, Iowa, they have more than each other to contend with. Duncan Kibet of Kenya overpowered both men in winning the Quad-City Times Bix 7M on July 28 in 32:15, the second fastest time there since 1998.
Kibet, presently ranked #5 in the world by Running Times magazine, now wears the hat as the favorite in Saturday’s Beach to Beacon. He finished five seconds ahead of runner up Nyariki at Bix. Meb, who holds the U.S. record at 10,000m, placed fourth.
Nyariki is hoping that his experience on the Cape Elizabeth course counts for something. He won the 2006 race (27:48) and placed third in 2005, which marked his return to international racing after a 2003 carjacking episode left the former Olympian without sight in his right eye. He also is more familiar with Kibet, whom he had never run against before Bix.
Meb, who surprised the running world with a silver medal in the marathon at the 2004 Athens Games, is gearing up for the Olympic trials in November and would like nothing better than to break the tape first in Saturday’s race.
“Duncan is one of the world’s top half marathoners and he proved at Bix that he’s in a special class in the 10K as well,” said Larry Barthlow, the elite athlete coordinator. “I know Meb is excited to be here and is determined to do well, and Tom runs the Beach to Beacon course as well as anyone. It’s going to be quite a battle.”
Kenyans William Chebon, who finished fifth at Bix, and Evans Cheryiout, one of the few runners to ever break 60:00 in the half marathon, also should contend.
A similar scenario is unfolding on the women’s side. Susan Chepkemei of Kenya, the 2004 TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon champ and one of the most decorated half marathoners ever, is determined to regain her crown after finishing a disappointing fourth last year. Over the weekend, she finished third in a half marathon in Bogotá, Colombia after fighting through severe leg cramps.
When she arrives in Maine, one of the hottest runners on the circuit will be here to greet her. Wude Ayalew Yamir, a 20-year-old Ethiopian who is quickly establishing herself on the American road race circuit, followed up a huge win at the Peachtree 10K earlier in July with a victory at the Bix 7M over the weekend.
Luminita Talpos of Romania, who placed third at the 2006 Beach to Beacon, also is back for her fourth race. Her second-place finish at Bix means she is ready to take a run at the title on Saturday. Other contenders include Diribe Alemu and Genet Getaneh of Ethiopia, who finished third and seventh, respectively, at Bix in their first races on American soil. Russia’s Galina Alexandrova took fifth at Bix and should be in the hunt, and Nataliya Berkut, a 2004 Olympian from the Ukraine, is a wildcard who could surprise.
“Wude is at the top of the heap right now, but Susan is a real fighter, as she proved in Bogotá, so I expect good things from her,” Barthlow said. “Luminita always runs well here, and Diribe and Genet are going to be even more comfortable in our race. Nataliya is someone to keep an eye on. The women’s field is as deep as it’s ever been, which is great.”
The TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon is considered the jewel for Maine’s top road racers and the winner each year wears the unofficial crown as the Maine Road Racing Champion.
The influx of young and talented Maine men continues this year with a field as stacked with talent as it’s ever been. Last year, Donny Drake, then a University of Maine senior wearing bib #2659, ran away from the field to win. Wearing bib #30 as the defending champ, Drake, 22, of Portland, won’t be overlooked this year.
He will be challenged by: Eric Giddings, 20, of South Portland, who started the youth movement by winning in 2003 as a 16-year-old and then shattering the course record with a 30:34 in 2005; Ayalew Taye, 19, of Cape Elizabeth, who finished third in 2006 and 2005; Ethan Hemphill, 35, of Freeport, who again is dominating the Maine roads in 2007and won the 2004 Beach to Beacon; and Evan Graves, 25, of Presque Isle, who is having a strong 2007 season.
Potential “Donny Drakes” of 2007 – lesser known men capable of winning the race – include Kirby Davis, 22, of Falmouth, a conference champ from the University of Maine, Stan Pyle, 26, of Portland, a former Div. III All-American, Andrew Van Hoogenstyn, 23, of Cape Elizabeth, and Michael Downing, 24, of Gorham.
“The men’s side of the Maine field continues to be one of the most exciting and interesting races with the influx of these young, talented runners,” said Race President David Weatherbie of Cape Elizabeth, himself a top Maine road racer. “I think everyone is anxious to see who might emerge this year.”
In the women’s race, two-time defending champ Emily Levan, 34, of Wiscasset, is the favorite, with Susannah Beck, 39, of Sedgwick, who won the Maine title in 2004, again expected to put up a strong challenge. Kristin Pierce-Barry, 33, of Scarborough, a repeat winner of the recent Yarmouth Clam Festival 5-Miler, and Sheri McCarthy-Piers, 36, of Falmouth, also should contend.
The word “special” has become synonymous with the TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race. Maybe it’s the gorgeous course. Or perhaps it’s the local hospitality, the invariable blue skies, the tireless volunteers, the generous sponsors, the seemingly flawless operation of the race or founder Joan Benoit Samuelson’s involvement. Whatever it is, it’s special.
The event attracts more than 800 volunteers and brings out an extraordinary effort on the part of the town of Cape Elizabeth. TD Banknorth is the lead sponsor of the race founded by Joan Benoit Samuelson, the Olympic gold medalist and one of Maine’s most admired athletes. She serves as a spokesperson for the bank’s “Shining the Light for Maine Youth” program.
The race director is Dave McGillivray, president of DMSE, Inc., a nationally recognized event management company. McGillivray also serves as the race director of the BAA Boston Marathon.
In addition to TD Banknorth, other major corporate partners this year include Nike, Hannaford, Anthem, Poland Spring, WCSH TV-6, Northeast Delta Dental and MaineHealth. For additional info about the race, visit http://www.beach2beacon.org/ or call the race hotline at (888) 480-6940.
The wheelchair entrants begin at 8 a.m. at the start line on Route 77 near Crescent Beach State Park and the race starts at 8:10. The ocean-hugging course ends 6.2 miles later in Fort Williams Park at Portland Head, the most photographed lighthouse in the world.
Prize money of more than $60,000 is awarded to the runners, including $10,000 for the winner, $5,000 for the second place winner and cash prizes for the top 10 finishers. Other cash awards go to the top men and women master’s finishers, men and women wheelchair entrants and men and women from Maine. Also, age category winners will receive L.L. Bean gift certificates. For more information about the race, go to http://www.beach2beacon.org/.