CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — It’s not Rio, but it’s good to be home for Ben True.
The North Yarmouth native became the first American and the first runner from Maine to win the TD Beach to Beacon 10K on Saturday, a month after he fell short of making the United States Olympic team by the narrowest of margins.
“I’ve got to admit, it’s a little bittersweet. I kind of wish I was in Rio right now, but it’s always nice to come here, home, and run in front of a home crowd and all the familiar faces,” True said.
“Winning this race has always been a goal of mine, and it’s great to get it done.”
True, a graduate of Greely High School, placed fourth in the 5,000-meter final at the U.S. Olympic trials last month, one spot away from claiming an Olympic berth.
He completed Saturday’s 10-kilometer race in 28 minutes, 16.3 seconds.
The women’s race was won by Kenya’s Mary Keitany, who set a women’s record with a time of 30:45.0.
The U.S. actually had a one-two finish in the men’s race, as Dathan Ritzenhein of Belmont, Michigan, placed second, finishing 11 seconds after True. William Malel Sitonik of Kenya was third.
The race began with what True said was a “luxurious first mile” during which the elite runners were “taking it very easy.” Eventually, Sitonik broke away and put a little bit of distance between himself and the rest of the runners, including True and Ritzenhein.
Sitonik ran the 10,000 meters in an impressive 26:54.66 on a track at the Prefontaine Classic in May, and though confident in his own ability and fitness, and that sub-27-minute time wasn’t lost on Ritzenhein.
“You never know, when a guy’s just run a 26:50-something recently, you think, am I in any shape close to that? But, I must be in pretty good shape,” Ritzenhein said. “So I’m not intimidated or anything at this point, but at the same time, I didn’t know if he was going to keep pushing and go. I mean, was feeling like my legs were going as fast as they were going to go at that point. But he only maintained about a 2-second lead for about a half-mile there, and then we kind of caught him back.
“But, actually, I wondered at that point: is he just going to take off and be gone here?”
The three runners continued to separate themselves from the pack. True finally separated himself from the other two near the end.
“It wasn’t until that last hill, right before turning into the park, that I really actually took the lead for the first time,” True said. “And from then I just tried to push to keep it open.
“With these international 10Ks, I always say that if I’m in the race at 8K, at 5 miles, it’s very hard for them to shake me in that last mile because I’ll be so determined to hang on. So, luckily, I was there today, and I was still ready to have some fight in me.”
Ritzenhein (28:27.3) came in four seconds ahead of Sitonik (28:31.6) to give the United States the top two spots on the podium in a race that the country had never before won.
“I think that’s great,” True said. “American running definitely has been having a resurgence, for sure, so it’s awesome to have Americans high up in any international race.”
There also was Maine pride for True, and from the fans (“I feel bad for the other people in the race because it seems like everyone’s cheering my name,” he said) and from other Maine runners.
“I run for Saucony, too, so as a Saucony athlete, as a Mainer, as a U.S. athlete, everyone’s just pulling for him,” Portland’s Michelle Lilienthal, the highest-finishing Maine woman, said.
“The trials were just such a heartbreak. He’s such an amazing runner, and being from Maine, it’s just awesome to see him crush it. I feel like after the trials, it’s just great to see that. It’s just incredible.”
Bangor native Riley Masters, who also failed in an attempt to make the U.S. team in the 5,000, finished Saturday’s race in 17th overall with a time of 30:51.
Lilienthal was the 16th female finisher. Soon after crossing the finish line, she said to another runner, “That hurt more than normal.”
“I don’t know if it was the humidity or what, but it hurt today,” Lilienthal said. “I mean, when you’re running fast, it always hurts, but that last mile today, I really felt like I couldn’t close like I wanted to.”
Yet Keitany still shattered the course record.
Minutes after the first Elite Women’s Start in Beach to Beacon’s 19-year history, Keitany, the 2015 New York Marathon winner, took control of the race. The Elite women runners started the race at 8 a.m., 12 minutes ahead of the Elite men and the rest of the runners.
About halfway through the 6.21 miles, Keitany took the lead. She soon pulled away, and then it became a race against the clock.
“When I was like, 5-mile, somebody was saying, ‘You’re going to go break the course record.’ I say, ‘Wow,'” Keitany said.
Along with her New York Marathon win, Keitany also has won the London Marathon twice. She entered Saturday’s race having won the Quad-City Times Bix 7 in Iowa, also setting a course record, six days earlier.
“It was amazing to me. Winning two races with the course records, it’s good to me, and I’m happy,” Keitany said.
Keitany’s time Saturday was 14 seconds faster the previous record of 30:59.4, set by Lineth Chepkurui in 2010.
Defending Beach to Beacon women’s champion Wude Ayalew of Ethopia cut 17 seconds off last year’s winning time, but was still 54 seconds behind Keitany.
Another Kenyan, Caroline Chepkoech-Kipki, placed third. Emily Sisson of Providence, Rhode Island, took fourth, the highest finish of any American woman.
Lilienthal also was the top Maine finisher in 2014.
Jesse Orach of Gorham was the first male runner from Maine to cross the finish line. He took 18th in the men’s race.
Orach is a senior-to-be on the University of Maine cross country and track and field teams. His teammate on both squads, Lucas Bourget of Auburn, was the sixth male finisher from Maine. The Edward Little High School product was the 34th overall finisher.
Tony Nogueira of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, won his 10th Beach to Beacon 10K wheelchair race. Cape Elizabeth’s Christina Kouros won the women’s wheelchair race for the fifth time.