CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — It was a high-risk, high-reward gamble for Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya.
The risk she and challengers Wude Ayalew of Ethiopia and Edna Kipligat of Kenya took was going out fast — really fast — over the first mile of Saturday’s TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K.
They set such a blistering pace that that trio nearly stayed with the elite men’s pack early on.
Eventually, Kipligat fell off the pace and Chepkurui held off a challenge by Ayalew and shattered the course record by 26 seconds, completing the 6.2-mile journey in front of thousands of spectators from Crescent Beach to Portland Head Light in 30 minutes, 59 seconds.
Chepkurui becomes the first female runner to eclipse the 31-minute barrier for the 10K distance on Maine soil.
Ayalew finished eight seconds back in second, running 31:07, while Kipligat’s 31:33 was good for third. Defending champion Irene Limika of Kenya ran 33:06 to finish fourth.
On the men’s side, 25-year-old Gebre Gebremariam, or “G.G.,” of Ethiopia, claimed his first B2B title in dramatic fashion, outkicking two other runners to win in 27:40.
Gebremariam sprinted ahead of Alan Kiprono (27:42, second) and Wilson Chebet (27:45, third), both of Kenya, in the final quarter-mile to earn the win.
Two-time reigning champion Ed Muge of Kenya’s 28:08 was good for fourth while Yarmouth native Ben True was the top American finisher, clocking in at 29:02 to place 12th overall and just out of the money.
The top 10 overall finishers each received prize money, while Chepkurui pocketed a whopping $12,500 — $10,000 for winning and another $2,500 for breaking the course record.
It was previously held by Alventina Ivanova of Russia.
“The three of us are very strong,” Chepkurui said, referring to her two competitors.
Chekpurui started to pull away just after the third mile.
“The race was very tough, very challenging,” she said.
The men’s race was quite the contrast to the women’s, with 13 runners putting on a show of tactical racing.
By the third mile, Chebet, a half-marathon specialist, had the lead with Gebremariam, Kiprono and Stephen Kipkosgei-Kibet close behind.
Gebremariam finally made his move at mile five.
He wasn’t the first one to turn into Fort Williams, though, as he was close behind Kiprono and Chebet.
“They passed me going around the curb,” Gebremariam said.
Early on, any chance of Gebremariam breaking Gilbert Okari’s course record of 27:27.7 was dashed with the slow pace, but it picked up quite a bit late in the race.
“We ran 4:16 and 4:22 for the last miles, so it was a very good finish,” said Gebremariam.
True, who has been training in Eugene, Ore., over the last year, eclipsed the 29:10 he ran last summer.
Since his residence is listed as Eugene, he was ineligible to compete as part of the Maine delegation.
Race president David Weatherbie said the good weather made for ideal running conditions.
“We had an incredibly deep field of elite athletes and they really put on a show, but they weren’t alone,” said Weatherbie, who ran the race. “We also had 20 Maine resident men who ran sub-33 minutes, which is a prime example of the depth and quality of this year’s race from top to bottom. The best weather really brought out the best for all involved.”
More than $60,000 in prize money was awarded as 5,669 runners from 17 countries and 41 U.S. states finished the race, with masters titles going to James Koskei of Kenya (29:55) on the men’s side and Christine Reaser of Dayton (39:18) on the women’s.
Other winners included: wheelchair division, men — Craig Blanchette (24:12) of Battle Ground, Wash.; women — Catherine Jalbert (1:29:50) of Brewer; and senior division, men — Norm Larson (33:30) of Burlington, Vt., and women — Jeanne Hackett (39:48) of Scarborough.
In the Corporate Challenge, Unum took first place in the mixed team division, BIW won the men’s division and LL Bean won the women’s division.
The race, founded by TD Bank and Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson of Cape Elizabeth, benefits a different charity each year.
This year’s beneficiary was Junior Achievement of Maine, a nonprofit organization providing economic education programs that help inspire Maine children to develop skills, attitudes and behaviors for success in a global economy. The TD Charitable Foundation provided a donation of $33,000 to the organization.
During the race, Samuelson was at the finish line greeting and cheering recreational runners.
“It’s great to see the elite athletes at the finish line, but the real inspiring stories are towards the end,” Samuelson said. “Every runner who crosses the line has a story to tell, some heartwarming and some heart wrenching. That’s what is really inspiring to me. I see how this race continues to change lives.”