CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine – A trio of top American distance runners including Olympians Deena Kastor, Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall are part of a world-class field assembled for Saturday’s TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race.
In addition to the top Americans, this year’s professional field of 30 men and women runners is made up of a number of 10K speedsters and top marathoners from around the world, led by Kenyan Stanley Biwott, ranked third in the world at the 6.2-mile distance and the defending race champion.
The women’s race, meanwhile, is considered wide open and loaded, with at least three Kenyan women — Lineth Chepkurui, Joyce Chepkirui and Linet Masai — capable of breaking the course record 30:59 set by Chepkurui in 2010.
“We have the deepest field of Americans in the 16-year history of the TD Beach to Beacon, but they have their work cut out for them with the high-level international athletes we were able to attract once again,” said Larry Barthlow, the elite athlete coordinator for the TD Beach to Beacon, in a news release. “All in all, I like the balance we achieved and the depth. And with the right conditions, we might see three women run a sub 31:00, which would be really amazing.”
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 top finishers in the various categories for men and women. A $2,500 bonus also is available for any runner who breaks an open course record.
The professional athletes will join a race-day field of more than 6,000 for the TD Beach to Beacon 10K, which is held on a winding, relatively flat course that begins near the Crescent Beach State Park entrance on Route 77 in Cape Elizabeth and ends in Fort Williams Park at the Portland Head Light.
Kastor, one of the most decorated American distance runners during the past decade, had planned to make her TD Beach to Beacon debut in 2011 but got sidelined by illness the day before the race and withdrew. She will run this year as her final tuneup before the World Championships in Moscow, where she will compete in the marathon for Team USA.
Kastor, 40, won bronze at the 2004 Olympics and holds the American record in the marathon and half marathon. She first broke TD Beach to Beacon race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson’s 18-year-old American marathon record in 2003, then lowered the mark to 2:19:36 in 2006.
Keflezighi finished the the 2007 TD Beach to Beacon in 27:58 to place fourth in a strong field — the highest-ever placing for an American man in Cape Elizabeth. Keflezighi, 38, won silver at the 2004 Olympics — the first American to medal in the marathon in 28 years — and finished fourth at last summer’s London Games.
Hall, 30, is a two-time Olympian who won the U.S. Olympic trials in 2008 and holds the American record in the half marathon. He recorded three top-four finishes at the Boston Marathon from from 2009 through 2011 and won the Bay to Breakers 12K earlier this year.
While defending TD Beach to Beacon women’s champion Margaret Wangari-Muriuki of Kenya is not entered in this year’s race, that field does include the 25-year-old Chepkurui, who finished third last year just two seconds off the pace after a sprint finish in one of the closest finishes in race history.
Chepkurui has recent wins at the Utica Boilermaker 12K and Peachtree 10K, and she presently is ranked 14th in the world by All-Athletics World Rankings.
She will be challenged by Masai and Chepkirui, both with something to prove after not getting named to the Kenyan team for the World Championships.
Wangari-Muriuki and Emily Chebet, last year’s Beach to Beacon runner-up by 0.6 seconds, were both expected to be in this year’s Beach to Beacon field until both were recently named to the Kenyan national team for the World Championships in Moscow on Aug. 10 and forbidden from traveling.
“We have such a deep field, even without Margaret and Emily, but can you imagine if they had been able to run here?” Barthlow said. “It would have like staging the 10,000-meter World Champs final right here in Maine.”
On the men’s side, Biwott already has recorded the 10th fastest half-marathon time in history this year — 58:56 — but he will be pushed by Micah Kogo, 27, of Kenya, an Olympic bronze medalist who won the 2011 TD Beach to Beacon in 27:47 and finished second in this year’s Boston Marathon by running a 2:10:27 in his marathon debut.