CAPE ELIZABETH – Someone led and another followed closely. A third stayed within reach, and that seemed to be the rhythm of the elite women’s race Saturday in the 13th TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K.
Yet when it came to one of the most challenging points on the 10-kilometer course, Lineth Chepkurui maneuvered herself to the front and rearranged the outcome.
In her first Beach to Beacon, Chepkurui crossed the finish line at Fort Williams Park in a record time of 30 minutes, 59.4 seconds, 7.5 seconds ahead of Wude Ayalew (31:06.9).
Both bested the course record of 31:26 set in 2006 by Alevtina Ivanova of Russia.
“The course was a bit tough but toward the finish line, it was rolling, rolling,” Chepkurui said. “After 5 miles it started to become challenging because first off you’re running down the hills, then climbing up.”
Chepkurui, a 22-year-old from Kenya, took on the first of the undulating hills that start around the 5-mile mark and passed Edna Kipligat, also of Kenya, the Los Angeles Marathon winner. As Kipligat fell back and Chepkurui strengthened her lead, she faced a challenge from Ayalew, who remained seconds behind. Ayalew, a 23-year-old from Ethiopia, stayed within reach during the final stretch along Shore Road and followed Chepkurui to the finish inside Fort Williams Park.
“The first course area is very good,” Ayalew said through Gebre Gebremariam, the men’s elite winner who translated for her. “But the last 5 or 6 (kilometers) were up and down, and I didn’t know where the finishing area was. Due to this I went fast. But the course is very good.”
Chepkurui entered the women’s elite race as a favorite and set a scorching pace, averaging 5 minutes a mile along the 6.2-mile course.
Seven women averaged under 5:30 per mile. Kipligat, who set the pace early, finished third in 31:33.1, ahead of Irene Limika of Kenya (33:06.1), Leonora Joy-Petrina of New Zealand (33:25), Catherine Ndereba of Kenya (33:33.7) and Malika Mejdoub of Morocco (33:39.6).
“The first mile was too fast for me,” said Heidi Westhover, a Walpole, N.H., resident who was the first American finisher and eighth overall woman. “It was definitely a really fast course. It was really good weather today, too, so we got some help.”
Westhover finished in 34:11.22, ahead of Allison Krol of Pittsfield, Mass. (34:24.9) and Kristin Barry of Scarborough, the top Maine women’s finisher (34:34.9).
Ndereba, a two-time Olympic silver medalist in the women’s marathon and a five-time Beach to Beacon winner, ran her first Beach to Beacon since 2004 and returned after recovering from tearing a muscle that runs between her spine and femur.
The injury had forced her to withdraw from the Boston Marathon in April.
“I feel great,” Ndereba told the crowd at Fort Williams Park during the awards ceremony.
“I thank God I was able to come back and run a good time, and land without pain.”
Kipligat led early in the race, part of a small group of women that kept a pace with some of the elite men. Kipligat and Chepkurui ran stride for stride for the first 2 miles, and Ayalew was about 30 to 40 meters behind the Kenyan pair.
“Immediately, when we started, we were the two and it was just us and then the group, the rest of the ladies,” Chepkurui said.
“At around 3 miles, Wude came and closed the gap and the pace was starting to push, and it was a bit hard to break up.”
Chepkurui had to hold off Ayalew in the final stretch after widening her lead at one of the most challenging parts of the course.
“The hills, just at the halfway point, (Chepkurui) pushed,” Ayalew said. “I ran very fast, very fast to meet her. I could follow her but she couldn’t follow me. We pushed each other.”
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at: