The women elite runners leave the starting line of the annual TD Beach To Beacon 10K road race Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Credit: Joel Page | AP

The TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race in Cape Elizabeth set for Saturday was canceled back in April due to coronavirus concerns, but its organizers fear that runners will be out on the course anyway this weekend.

Race President David Backer and Cape Elizabeth Town Manager Matthew Sturgis issued a public appeal on Wednesday telling runners, in Backer’s words, “please do NOT gather to run the racecourse on Saturday.”

The brainchild of Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, the race attracts a field of 6,500 recreational and world-class runners each year. The top five Maine men and women finishers are eligible for cash prizes ranging from $1,000 each for first place to $100 for the fifth-place male and female finishers.

Becker and Sturgis issued the warning partly in response to word from Cape Elizabeth police that “a large number of people” plan on running the racecourse on Saturday. According to the department’s Facebook page, police “are unable to control traffic, especially on the narrow and curvy Shore Road.”

“During the regular race, we have dozens of law enforcement officers in town to shut down roads, direct traffic, and control the over 10,000 runners and spectators that come to town,” the posting continued. Police won’t have that manpower working on Saturday, and runners on the course “leads to a more dangerous situation with runners coupled with the busy weekend summer traffic.”

The warning came a day after Gov. Janet Mills’ administration eased the state’s 50-person limit on gatherings for outdoor spectator events, allowing up to 200 people to attend events such as athletic competitions and concerts so long as they follow certain stipulations. Under the new rules, each 50-person area must allow for six feet of space between household groups, and each 50-person area must be 14 feet away from the other 50-person areas, with physical barriers erected between each area.

The change to the state’s guidelines comes amid increasing evidence that the risk of transmitting the coronavirus outdoors is substantially lower than it is indoors, said Nirav Shah, director of Maine CDC.

People who want to run the course in large groups should wait for the 2021 race, Backer said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the distance of the Beach to Beacon 10K.