CAPE ELIZABETH — Top road racers from around the globe, including American marathon record-holder Deena Kastor, will join the best in Maine and New England in Cape Elizabeth on Saturday at 8 a.m. for the 14th running of the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race, according to a press release from race organizers.
Elite athletes from Africa, Asia and Europe will share the scenic coastal course with thousands of recreational runners who receive cheers and encouragement from spectators. The festive atmosphere each year re-affirms the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K’s reputation as a world-class event with small-town charm.
This year’s expected race-day field of 6,000 will include runners from 11 countries and 41 U.S. states. Maine native and Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson is the founder of the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K.
More than $60,000 in prize money is at stake, including a $10,000 prize each to the top man and woman. Also, 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 consistently ranks among the fastest and most competitive 10Ks in the world.
American Kastor and Kenyan Catherine Ndereba, Olympic medalists and running legends, headline the women’s field for the 10K. The talented men’s field could be the fastest ever, even with the late withdrawal of reigning champ Gebre Gebremariam due to scheduling issues with the Ethiopian Athletics Federation.
Kastor, one of the most decorated American distance runners over the past decade, will make her debut in Cape Elizabeth as part of her selective return to competitive racing after giving birth to her first child in February. She is preparing for the Olympic marathon trials in January, hoping to chase gold in London in 2012.
Kastor, 38, who won bronze at the 2004 Olympics, holds the American record in the marathon and half-marathon and finished first at the prestigious Chicago and London marathons, has always wanted to add the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K to her resume.
“I am finally running Beach to Beacon, which for years has been at the top of my list for races I want to run,” Kastor said recently in an interview with Road Race Weekly. “Joan Benoit Samuelson continues to be a hero of mine and a great source of inspiration in running and in life. Not only is the race founded by Joan, but it is not surprisingly also known for its competitiveness and hospitality.”
Kastor first broke Samuelson’s 18-year-old American marathon record in 2003, then lowered the mark to 2:19:36 in 2006.
Kastor will be joined by Ndereba, 39, a two-time Olympic silver medalist who also once held the world marathon record (2:18:47). She is a four-time Boston Marathon champ and two-time World Champ. Ndereba won five of the first six TD Bank Beach to Beacons and is the former course record holder (31:33). Following a five-year absence, Ndereba returned to the race in 2010 and, rehabbing an injury, finished sixth.
Kastor and Ndereba are not likely to contend for the TD Bank Beach to Beacon title, especially with Ethiopians Wude Ayalew and Aheza Kiros pushing the pace. Another top Ethiopian, Werknesh Kidane, has been scratched due to scheduling conflicts with the EAF.
Ayalew, 24, is determined to notch a win in Cape Elizabeth after finishing second in 2010 to Lineth Chepkuri’s record-setting performance (30:59). Her time of 31:07 also broke the record, and stands as the second fastest time ever on the 6.2-mile course. She won the Crescent City Classic 10K in New Orleans in April in 31:36.
Kiros, 25, won her second Carlsbad 5000 in April and finished second at Freihofer’s Run for Women and the New York Mini 10K this summer. She has run 31:07 at 10,000 meters on the track.
Kenyan Jelliah Tinega, 25, who won the Bellin Run 10K and finished second over the weekend in the Quad City Times Bix 7, will vie for a top spot. Diane Nukuri-Johnson, 26, from Burundi, finished third in Iowa.
Buzunesh Deba, 23, of Ethiopia, one of the hottest marathon runners on the circuit, also will be in the mix. She has won six of her last eight marathons, including the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon (2:23:31) in June and the Los Angeles Marathon in March. She also won the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K in Central Park in May.
Other top American women in the race include Adriana Pirtea Nelson, 31, of Fort Collins, Colo., a former Romanian national champ who recently gained U.S. citizenship, and Rebecca Donohue, 35, of State College, Pa., who recorded top-six finishes in 2009 and 2008 in the TD Bank Beach to Beacon.
The men’s race is likely to be a sprint to the finish with a number of speedsters ready to assume the mantle with Gebremariam’s late scratch, meaning the eight-year-old course record of 27:28 is in jeopardy.
Micah Kogo, 25, of Kenya, who won bronze at 10,000 meters in the 2008 Olympics, has recorded the fastest 10K in the world so far in 2011 — 27:15 at the Parelloop 10K in Holland — and once held the 10K world record (27:01). Fellow Kenyan Mike Kigen, 25, finished second in that race in 27:25 — the third fastest 10K this year.
They will be challenged by a trio of even younger Kenyans, including Allan Kiprono, 21, who finished second at the TD Bank Beach to Beacon last year (27:42) in his first race on American soil. In 2011, he notched a win at the Bellin Run 10K in Green Bay, Wis., and took second at the Crescent City Classic 10K and the Quad City Times Bix 7. Lani Rutto, 22, is right on his heels, with a second-place finish at Bellin and a third at Bix. In addition, Lucas Rotich, 21, of Kenya, who specializes in the 5,000, clocked 27:12 in 10K in Eugene, Ore., earlier this year and could surprise.
The race also includes two former champs — 28-year-old Ed Muge (2008-09), trying to improve on a fifth-place finish last year, and 31-year-old Gilbert Okari (2003-04-05), who set the existing course record in 2003. Also, another former champ, 42-year-old James Koskei (2002) of Kenya is back seeking his third consecutive master’s title.
Top Americans in the race include Patrick Smyth, 25, who won the Deseret News 10K (28:11) in Salt Lake City on July 25, and Tim Young, 23, and Paul Hefferon, 25, both of Rochester Hills, Mich.
“I’m quite satisfied with the elite field that we’ve assembled,” said Elite Athlete Coordinator Larry Barthlow. “It’s an honor to have Deena and Catherine in the race, and with the men, I’m just so excited to see how it all shakes out with so many really talented athletes with a legitimate shot at winning. With all that speed, if the conditions are right, you’re going to see some amazing times.”
The beneficiary of this year’s race is Day One ( www.day-one.org), a non-profit agency providing substance abuse prevention, intervention, treatment, and aftercare programs for Maine youth. TD Bank, through the TD Charitable Foundation, will provide a cash donation of $30,000 to the organization, which also is benefiting from fundraising activities and publicity through its association with the race.
“We are proud to continue supporting the TD Bank Beach to Beacon, a special event made possible by the hard work and dedication of everyone involved,” said Larry Wold, TD Bank Market President for Maine who has run in every previous TD Bank Beach to Beacon (40:08 in 2010, 342nd overall) and is ready to compete again on Saturday. “This year’s race beneficiary organization, Day One, does a remarkable job helping Maine youth avoid and overcome substance abuse and lead happy, productive lives. We are honored to support Day One and its efforts.”