CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — Kenyan Micah Kogo used his Olympic track speed to wear down a talented men’s field and Aheza Kiros of Ethiopia cruised to victory on the women’s side in the 14th edition of the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race on Saturday.
In the Maine resident races, Sheri Piers of Falmouth pushed through the heat and humidity to reclaim the women’s title, while Louie Luchini of Ellsworth, a decorated collegian turned State Representative, put a stamp on his legacy in the men’s race.
The winners were among the record-setting 5,876 runners from 12 countries, 43 states and more than 200 Maine cities and towns who finished the 6.2-mile course on a sunny, warm and humid morning on the Maine coast. Thousands of spectators lined the course and filled bleachers at the finish to cheer the runners.
Kogo (27 minutes, 48 seconds), who won bronze at 10,000 meters in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, pushed the pace at the outset in record-setting fashion, pulled away at mile 4 and then hung on as the heat took a toll, preserving the course record of 27:28.
Lucas Rotich (27:56) of Kenya took second while Kenyan Ed Muge (27:59), the 2008 and 2009 Beach to Beacon champion, finished strong to take third. Patrick Smyth, 25, of Salt Lake City, was the first American at 28:39, good enough for ninth place.
Kogo, 21, led an eight-man lead pack that recorded the fastest-ever two-mile split — 8:47 — in race history. They crossed the 5K mark at 13:37, again on pace for a new course record. Kogo had already recorded a 27:15 earlier this year and once held the 10K world record (27:01), so the anticipation built as he and Rotich, 21, ran shoulder-to-shoulder after returning to Route 77 from Old Ocean House Road, with Allan Kiprono, 21, and Lani Rutto, 22, both of Kenya, still in the hunt.
Kogo made a move on Rotich before turning onto Shore Road, stretching the lead but falling off the record pace. Rotich, a 5,000 specialist, could not to reel him in, while Muge, who has never finished out of the top five in his four years in the race, and Hosea Mwok-Macharinyang, 25, of Kenya (28:00), charged hard at the end in tough conditions to finish 3-4. Kiprono (28:12), the 2010 runnerup, took fifth and Rutto (28:34) sixth.
On the women’s side, 25-year-old Kiros (32:09), a race favorite, did not disappoint and became the first Ethiopian woman to win the women’s title. Jelliah Tinega, 25, of Kenya, was awarded second place and Buzunesh Deba, 23, of Ethiopia, third after they finished with identical times of 32:35.5. The first American finisher was Sara Slattery, 29, of Boulder, Colo., who took sixth (33:36).
Kiros, Tinega and Deba formed a tight lead pack over the first two miles before Deba fell off the pace, leaving Kiros and Tinega to trade lead positions until mile 3, when Kiros pulled away and never looked back, winning by almost half a minute. Kiros was seeking redemption after being disappointed by a fourth-place finish in her first Beach to Beacon in 2009.
Diane Nukuri Johnson, 26, of Burundi, finished a strong fourth (32:44), well ahead of fifth-place finisher Benita Willis, 32, of Australia (33:15). The women were well off the course record of 30:59, set by Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya in 2010.
American marathon record-holder and Olympic medalist Deena Kastor, 38, did not race after becoming ill on Friday in Maine. She is returning to competitive racing after having a baby in February and had targeted the race as a test of her conditioning. She also was looking forward to competing for the first time in the race founded by her idol Joan Benoit Samuelson. Catherine Ndereba, 39, a two-time Olympic silver medalist from Kenya and five-time TD Bank Beach to Beacon champ, finished 11th (34:30).
“Micah and Lucas went out fast and teased us with a course-record pace, but the conditions caught up with them,” said Elite Athlete Coordinator Larry Barthlow. “On a different day, that record falls, but they still put on a good show. And Aheza just dominated, which was nice to see for her.”
The humid conditions also put a damper on the highly anticipated women’s side of the Maine resident races. The race was viewed as a tossup between friends and training partners Kristin Barry, 37, of Scarborough, the defending champ; Piers, 40, of Falmouth, the 2009 champ and course-record holder; and Erica Jesseman, 22, of Scarborough, the young rising star.
Barry (38:32) needed to stop along the course for three minutes before continuing and Jesseman (35:38) collapsed and passed out after crossing the finish line in second, 26 seconds behind Piers, whose winning time (35:11) was almost a full minute behind her 2009 course record of 34:17.
Barry, a two-time champ and former course record holder, finished fifth, behind Kristine Guaraldo, 35, of South Portland (38:04), and Mary Pardi, 41, of Falmouth (38:31).
The men’s race was Luchini’s opportunity to put a stamp on his legacy like so many other top Maine runners have done over the years with a win in the Beach to Beacon 10K. Maine’s most decorated collegiate athlete ever, the 30-year-old Ellsworth native was an 11-time All-American at Stanford who now serves as a Maine state representative in his hometown
Luchini controlled the race from the start, staying comfortably in front of Jonny Wilson, 23, of Falmouth. Luchini (30:36) won by seven seconds with Wilson (30:42) in second, 27-year-old Joshua Trevino (31:33) of Orono in third, 25-year-old Josh Zolla (31:55) fourth and 21-year-old Ethan Shaw (32:05) of Falmouth fifth.
In all, prize money of more than $60,000 was awarded to the runners, including $10,000 for the overall male and female winners, $5,000 for the second-place winners and cash prizes for the top 10 finishers and in the different categories. The Maine resident winners received $1,000.
Other winners included: Masters Men: James Koskei, 42, of Kenya (30:27), his third straight title; Masters Women: Nuta Olaru, 40, of Romania (34:07), Piers finished second; Wheelchair Division, Men: Tony Nogueira, 43, of Glen Ridge, N.J. (23:39), his eighth title, and Women: Christina Kouros, 16, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine (53:33).
Also, in the Senior Division (50 and over) Men: Brian Pilcher, 54, of Ross, Calif. (34:00); Women: Jeanne Hackett, 52, of Scarborough, Maine (41:11).
In the Corporate Challenge, pitting teams of athletes from a number of New England corporations and businesses, Unum again won first place in the mixed team division, TD Bank won the men’s division, Maine Health the women’s division, and Fairchild Semiconductor for the first-time 10K division.
“It was another spectacular TD Bank Beach to Beacon with a record 5,676 finishers,” said race president David Weatherbie, 43, who ran 37:00 to finish 150th overall and also served as official race starter with his mom, Sue Weatherbie.
“It was certainly warm and humid, which in general slowed the times down compared to last year. However, the race volunteers and spectators were incredibly supportive,” Weatherbie added. “A huge and enthusiastic crowd lined the course and cheered on the runners which really helped them tremendously. It’s a ton of work to put on this event and I am very proud and grateful of our sponsors, organizing committee, volunteers, DMSE, and the town of Cape Elizabeth and its residents.”
The TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K is one of the most popular road races in the country, combining small-town charm with big-city crowds and top world-class athletes. Founded by TD Bank and Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, a Cape Elizabeth native, the race benefits a different charity each year.
The beneficiary of this year’s race was Day One ( www.day-one.org), a nonprofit agency providing substance abuse prevention, intervention, treatment and aftercare programs for Maine youth. TD Bank, through the TD Charitable Foundation, provided a cash donation of $30,000 to the organization, which also benefited from fundraising activities and publicity through its association with the race. TD Bank has now donated a total of $420,000 to Maine charities over the history of the race.
Samuelson, a running legend who remains a role model for women athletes worldwide, spent most of Saturday’s event at the finish line cheering, greeting and shaking hands of world-class and recreational runners alike.
“I continue to see this race change lives, and to see the faces of these runners as they close the finish line is truly inspiring to me,” Samuelson said. “Every one of these runners is a champion to me.”
The race course winds through the coastal town of Cape Elizabeth, starting near Crescent Beach State Park on Route 77 and ending at the Portland Head Light, the most photographed lighthouse in the world.
Larry Wold, president of TD Bank in Maine, completed the race for the 14th time on Saturday, this time in 41:01, which placed him in the top six percent of all runners.
“We at TD Bank feel tremendously fortunate to be a part of this world-class event, one of the best road races in the country,” he said. “The dedication and commitment to this race from everyone involved is just incredible. It was another special day.”