CAPE ELIZABETH – Aheza Kiros ran the final stretch of the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K surrounded by male runners, having already charged to a commanding lead over the rest of the elite women’s field.

When she broke through the finish tape Saturday morning inside Fort Williams Park, Kiros made the sign of the cross, fell to her knees and kissed the damp green grass behind the finish line. The 25-year-old Ethiopian had run Beach to Beacon once before, but she was in a new place.

And after she cooled off, Kiros noted the obvious difference between 2009 and 2011.

“Two years ago I came in (fourth),” Kiros said through a translator. “This year, I won.”

On a rolling course that started ahead of the entrance to Crescent Beach State Park and ended inside Fort Williams Park, Kiros finished with a time of 32 minutes, 8.7 seconds.

She strode through a morning that became hot and humid, and finished nearly 27 seconds ahead of Jelliah Tinega of Kenya and Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia, who both had a time of 32:35.5, with Tinega finishing second.

Diane Johnson of Burundi was fourth (32:43.7) and Benita Willis of Australia finished fifth (33:15.3).

“It has a lot of hills, and it’s hard,” Kiros said of the course. “And it was hot. “

Tinega, running in her first Beach to Beacon, agreed.

“It was a hilly course, and I tried to go hard,” Tinega said. “There were ups and downs. But I wanted to run a good time.”

Deena Kastor, the American record-holder in the marathon and half marathon, did not run. Race officials said Kastor withdrew Saturday morning after she came down with the flu.

Catherine Ndereba, and Olympian and five-time Beach to Beacon champion, was the 11th woman to cross the finish line, completing the course in 34:30.4, but said after the race she was hampered by a hamstring strain that she believed she sustained early in the race.

“The elite runners were great,” said Ndereba. “We had the best field and I think, myself, I had a good race. I tried to run quite conservative because I didn’t want to have a pull. Something irritated it but I told myself, ‘be smart and listen to your body.’ If it feels right, and if you’re ready to go, keep on going.”

Kiros ran with Tinega and Deba through the first mile along Route 77, which begins as a downhill stretch, then becomes a flat span to Inn by the Sea.

Kiros and Tinega ran together and maintained a steady pace for the next two miles before Kiros pulled away and ran by herself through the third and fourth miles, with Tinega behind by about 20 meters.

“When I was warming up, I started to see all the hills and I got tired,” Tinega said of the early part of the course. “But I wanted to go out and do my best, to run a good time. And it was hot out. It was not bad. I’m quite happy how I finished.”

Kiros continued to widen her lead over the final two miles along Shore Road and into Fort Williams.

“It was hard,” Kiros said. “But I had faith.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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