CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — The 18th annual TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race will have a distinct Maine flair beyond the masses of Pine Tree State runners who will make up the bulk of the field on Aug. 1.
Among the leading American professional runners who have committed to Maine’s largest road race are several Maine distance specialists who are making headlines on the world and national stages.
Leading that group is North Yarmouth native Ben True, the former Greely High School and Dartmouth College star who earned a berth on the U.S. team for the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, China, next month by finishing second in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs at the U.S. Championships in June.
Among those joining True — who set a course record while winning the Maine resident title at the 2009 TD Beach to Beacon — in the American field for the race are three other former Maine resident race champions making their return to the event as professionals: Riley Masters of Veazie, Will Geoghegan of Brunswick and Ethan Shaw of Falmouth.
“We probably haven’t seen a crop of extraordinary New England distance runners like this group since we were talking about [Bill] Rodgers, [Randy] Thomas, [Bruce] Bickford and [Greg] Meyer more than 30 years ago,” Larry Barthlow, the elite athlete coordinator of the TD Beach to Beacon, said.
True, 29, achieved the 10,000-meter qualifying time for the world championships with a time of 27 minutes, 44 seconds in early May at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, California. Last week, he achieved the 5,000-meter standard with a time of 13:06.15 during a race in Belgium.
He previously indicated he would compete in just the 5,000 at the worlds if he qualified in both events.
True, who lives and trains in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, broke the 19-year-old American road 5K record (13:22) to win the Boston Athletic Association 5K in April and became the first American in eight years to win the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K (28:13) in Central Park. He also won the USA 15K at the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Florida.
True placed third overall in his professional return to the TD Beach to Beacon last year with a time of 27:50.
The Masters, 25, who won the 2013 TD Beach to Beacon Maine race in 30:19, is a former Bangor High School standout and All-American at the University of Maine and University of Oklahoma, where he holds the school record in the 1,500.
Now living and training with the Brooks Track Club in Seattle, Washington, Masters ran a 13:17.97 for 5,000 meters at this year’s Payton Jordan Invitational, then placed ninth in the 5,000 at the U.S. Championships in June.
Geoghegan, 23, the 2014 Maine TD Beach to Beacon winner in 29:53, is a former Dartmouth All-American who finished his collegiate career at Oregon this spring. He placed eighth in the 1,500 at the U.S. Championships and clocked a personal-best time of 13:17.85 for 5,000 meters in Belgium last Friday.
Shaw, a 25-year-old Falmouth High School and Dartmouth product, won the 2012 Maine race in 30:37. Now living in Allston, Massachusetts, and a member of the B.A.A.’s High Performance Team, he recorded a personal-best 1:03.41 at the 2015 USA Half Marathon Championships in January.
Another New Englander, 23-year-old Eric Jenkins of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, will make his TD Beach to Beacon debut after recently ending his college career as a three-time All-American at Oregon. Other top Americans in the field will include Christo Landry, who holds the American record at 25K; and Emily Sisson, a Providence College graduate who set an NCAA indoor record at 5,000 meters in March.
“This is an exciting time as we’re seeing a renaissance of American distance running,” Barthlow said. “These athletes believe and know they can compete with anyone in the world, and they’re going to get their chance in Maine on Aug. 1.”
Top Americans were lured to the race in part by its new $23,000 prize purse for U.S. men and women that would be divided evenly among the top five men and women with $5,000 for the winners and $3,000, $2,000, $1,000 and $500 to the next fastest finishers.
The American-only category will increase the TD Beach to Beacon’s total prize money to more than $90,000, with $10,000 awarded to the race champions and payouts to the top 10 runners overall.
The 35-runner professional field also includes defending women’s champion Gemma Steel of Great Britain and three former TD Beach to Beacon winners from Kenya: Micah Kogo (2013, 2011), Stanley Biwott (2012) and Joyce Chepkirui (2013).
Steel finished in 31:27 last year to hold off American Shalane Flanagan for the win after placing second to Chepkurui a year earlier. Chepkirui was unable to defend her 2013 title but was the 2014 Commonwealth Games 10K champion.
Other women who should challenge Steel and Chepkirui include Wude Ayalew of Ethiopia, whose 2010 clocking of 31:07 is the second-fastest time in TD Beach to Beacon race history; two-time IAAF world cross country champion Emily Chebet of Kenya; and Diane Nukuri, a two-time Olympian from Burundi.
The women’s field boasts at least nine runners who have recorded sub-32:00 at 10K, including six who have achieved that mark on the TD Beach to Beacon course.
The world-class athletes will join a race-day field of more than 6,400 runners who will traverse a fast, relatively flat course that begins near Crescent Beach State Park on Route 77 in Cape Elizabeth and ends 6.2 miles later in Fort Williams Park at the Portland Head Light.
The race was founded by 1984 Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, who trained on the same roads while growing up in Cape Elizabeth.