Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi will join a talented, deep group of American distance runners — including Olympic medalist Shalane Flanagan and Maine native Ben True — for the 17th TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race on Saturday, Aug. 2 in Cape Elizabeth.
Both of the defending champions — Kenyans Micah Kogo and Joyce Chepkirui — also are returning to headline a 30-runner professional field dotted with Olympians, world champs and record setters, TD Beach to Beacon organizers announced in a news release Monday.
“We put together a solid American contingent last year, but I think this one is even stronger, especially on the women’s side, where a number of Americans are capable of sub 33s,” Larry Barthlow, the elite athlete coordinator for the TD Beach to Beacon said in the release.
“On the men’s side, favorite son Ben True is making his return to Maine with his sights set on winning the race and he certainly is more than capable. But there also are a handful of international runners who will have something to say about that. We’re set up for another great race day,” he added.
Prize money for the winner of the men’s and women’s races is $10,000. In all, nearly $60,000 in prize money will be awarded to the top finishers and place winners in the various categories for men and women. Northeast Delta Dental also is providing a $2,500 bonus to any runner who breaks an open course record.
The world-class athletes will join a race-day field of more than 6,200 runners who will wind along the fast, relatively flat course that begins near the Crescent Beach State Park entrance on Route 77 in Cape Elizabeth and ends 6.2 miles later in Fort Williams Park at the Portland Head Light.
In the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Keflezighi pushed to an emotional victory in April (2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds) to become the first American to win at Boston since 1983. At 38, he was the race’s oldest male winner since 1930.
Keflezighi’s 27:58 at the 2007 TD Beach to Beacon was good enough for fourth in a strong field — the highest ever placing for an American man in Cape Elizabeth. He placed fifth in the race last year.
Shalane Flanagan also will arrive in Maine following a record-setting performance in the Boston Marathon. She charged to the lead and held on for 19 miles before being overtaken and ultimately finishing seventh in a personal record 2:22:02 — the fastest time ever recorded by an American woman in Boston’s 118-year history.
Flanagan, 33, who grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts, is returning to the TD Beach to Beacon for the first time since high school.
In the years since, she has set American records in the 3,000 meters (indoor), 5,000 (indoor), 10,000 and 15K road race, won the bronze in the 2008 Olympics in the 10,000, finished second at the 2010 New York Marathon and won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Flanagan is presently training for the fall marathon season, with her stated goal to run a sub 2:20.
North Yarmouth native Ben True is also set to make a triumphant return to the TD Beach to Beacon. He last ran the race in 2009, shattering the Maine resident course record (29:10) and placing 10th overall. The former All-American at Greely High School and Dartmouth College moved to Oregon to focus on his professional running career.
True, now 28, returns to Maine in top form. He won the USA 15K Championship at the Gate River Run for the second year in a row, and in May set a personal best 13:02.74 for a gritty win in the 5,000 at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford.
But True has his work cut out for him if he wants to win a TD Beach to Beacon Open title.
Returning champ Micah Kogo, 28, of Kenya, an Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000, has utilized his track speed to win the TD Beach to Beacon in two of the past three years — 28:03 in 2013 and 27:47 in 2011. He once ran 27:01 in a 10K road race to set a world record and finished second (2:10:27) in his marathon debut at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Another 28-year-old Kenyan and former TD Beach to Beacon champ, Stanley Biwott, also is in the field. He won with a time of 27:59 in 2012. He placed second at the London Marathon (2:04:55) earlier this year and in 2013 recorded the 10th fastest half marathon time in history (58:56).
On the women’s side, in addition to Flanagan, Chepkirui, 25, is expected to make a strong bid for her second straight win against a solid field of athletes. Last year, the African Cross Country champ arrived in Maine with a chip on her shoulder after being left off the Kenyan national team for the IAAF World Championships. She set the pace early and maintained a lead throughout, finishing in 31:23.
Her win in Maine set off a chain of road race victories last fall, including a personal best 30:37 at the 2013 ASICS Grand 10 in Berlin, the fastest-ever 10K on German soil. In April, she set her personal best (1:06:19) and a course record at the Prague Half Marathon.
Chepkirui’s closest challenger last year also is back. Gemma Steel, 28, of Great Britain, recorded a personal best 31:26 to stay within striking distance. She duplicated that second-place performance at the Falmouth Road Race a week later.
Also in the mix will be Emily Chebet, a 28-year-old Kenyan who was the runner up at the 2012 TD Beach to Beacon (31:52) by .6 of a second. She is a two-time winner of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and has a personal best 31:18 at 10K.