CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — Ben True’s winning effort among Maine runners in the Beach to Beacon 10K road race last summer was effortless.
You see, North Yarmouth’s True treated last year’s race as a training run and still won going away in 31 minutes, 2 seconds.
That won’t be the case this time around, as the Greely High School and Dartmouth College graduate is in phenomenal shape and has visions of not only cracking 29 minutes on the challenging 6.2-mile route, but a top-10 overall finish as well.
“I’ve never raced this [competitively]. I’ve never been in shape for this race,” True said at a prerace press conference at the Inn by the Sea Friday morning. “I’m excited to race to my full potential and see what happens.”
True and 5,999 other runners will line up at 8 this morning at Crescent Beach State Park for the 6-plus-mile journey to Fort Williams.
The race will be a last hurrah of sorts for True as a Maine competitor, as he’s moving to Oregon where he’ll turn pro and join the prestigious Oregon Track Club.
Even though the one thing on the minds of fans and media alike is will — and if so by how much — True eclipse Eric Giddings’ course record for Mainers of 30:34, the tall, lean True is more concerned with other things.
“I’m not really thinking about the course record right now,” he said. “My bigger goal is to break 29 minutes, which would be a new course record, but having a new course record is not something right now that I care too much about. It’s more about having a great race that I’m proud of and going from there.”
True has had an outstanding racing summer, most recently setting a new standard at the Clam Festival Classic 5-mile race in Yarmouth, running 23:37.
He has also won the inaugural Portland Sea Dogs Fathers’ Day 5K and the Bridgton Four on the Fourth 4-miler.
True won all three of those races in similar fashion — running solo throughout the duration of the race — but he expects to be pushed by the elite athletes from around the world.
“It’s great to be able to have guys to run with and I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s a whole different type of racing.”
The course record could also be in jeopardy on the Maine women’s side, as Sheri Piers of Falmouth is having the season of a lifetime.
But like True, Piers isn’t concerned about the record of 34:34, set by friend and training partner Kristin Pierce-Barry last year.
“I think it’s a lot of people’s goal to try to break the record,” she said. “I guess just trying to get a [personal record] for me would be good.”
Piers has done a lot of PR’ing over the course of the year, including lowering her Boston Marathon best to 2:37:04 and finishing 11th overall and third among Americans.
Her PR at the 10K distance is 34:47, which she posted in last year’s Beach to Beacon in finishing second to Barry, who is just happy to be in the field after battling back from a leg injury sustained in March while training.
“I fell on a ball of all things while I was running, which really messed up my leg,” said Barry. “I was out completely for two months. I’ve been back for a little bit now, I’m starting to feel better, but I’m nowhere near where I was last year. I’m just trying to be grateful that I can at least do it.”
That’s what race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson proved 25 years ago en route to making Olympic history, winning the 1984 U.S. marathon trials only 17 days after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
Some other contenders include Mandy Ivey of South Paris, a Colby College runner, Susannah Beck of Brunswick and Carry Buterbaugh of South Portland.
Other notable entries on the men’s side are former champ Ethan Hemphill of Freeport, P.J. Gourneault and Evan Graves, both of Caribou, Ellsworth brothers Joey and Corey DeWitt, University of Maine sophomore Riley Masters of Bangor and top local masters runner Andy Beardsley of Surry.
On the elite side, defending men’s champion Ed Muge of Kenya is back for another run at the title, while a new women’s champ will be crowned.
That’s because Edith Masai, who proved last summer that age has no boundaries in this sport, had to withdraw due to visa issues.
But some big names will be gunning for glory, including Berhane Adere of Ethiopia, a former world champion at the 10K distance whose PR of 30:04 is the sixth quickest 10K time ever run by a woman.
She headlines a wide-open field that includes Everlyne Lagat and Irene Limika of Kenya, Volha Krautsova of Belarus and Aheza Kiros of Ethiopia.
On the men’s side, Muge is back after winning the 2008 Beach to Beacon in 27:52, but there are plenty of other contenders aiming for his title.
They include James Kwambai of Kenya, who owns the third-fastest time ever at the 26.2-mile marathon distance at 2:04:20, Gashu Ibrahinm Jelian of Ethiopia, and veteran GIlbert Okari of Kenya, who won three straight Beach to Beacons from 2003-05.
Other favorites include Felix Limo and Boaz Cheboiywo of Kenya, Ridouane Harroufi of Morocco and Dejene Berhanu of Ethiopia.