CAPE ELIZABETH — Kenyan Joyce Chepkirui couldn’t stop smiling after winning the women’s division of the TD Beach to Beacon 10K.
Neither could Great Britain’s Gemma Steel, who finished second, 12 seconds behind Chepkirui’s winning time of 31 minutes, 23 seconds.
The victory was a bit of redemption for Chepkirui, a prerace favorite who won’t be able to run in the track and field world championships later this month in Moscow because she was excluded from the Kenyan national championships.
While Chepkirui led the entire race, a pack of about 10 runners stayed close to her until the final 1.2 miles.
“I made my move at the 5-mile mark,” Chepkirui said, with a towel wrapped around her shoulders on a cool morning. “I felt like I was in good shape today.”
Steel, meanwhile, said she felt ecstatic because it was her best time for 10 kilometers, and for the first time she was able to stay with the east Africans, who tend to dominate long-distance running.
“Just being able to stick with the Kenyans is terrific,” Steel said.
Steel not only ran with a pack of mostly Kenyans and Ethiopians, she shadowed Chepkirui before the Kenyan finally pulled away with about 200 yards to go.
When Chepkirui jumped ahead, Steel chased her and was only a few strides behind until the final stretch.
“I thought I would give it a try this time. I thought I might as well try to win it. It just goes to show, never underestimate yourself,” said Steel, 27, who speaks like she runs – really fast.
Steel said in previous races when Kenyans would break away she would think, ‘Oh, I’ll just let them go.’
“This is a big occasion for me,” Steel said.
Chepkirui, 24, and a first-time winner at Beach to Beacon, said Steel ran a great race.
“She was strong,” Chepkirui said. But Chepkirui’s final kick at 6 miles was too much for Steel.
Candace Karu, a race official who monitors the elite women from the back of a motorcycle, said Steel started out in about 10th place and kept moving up.
“Over the course of the race, (Steel) kept picking people off until she was in second,” Karu said. “You could tell she had a game plan in her head.”
Sule Utura of Ethiopia finished third, 2 seconds behind Steel. Forty-year-old Deena Kastor, the 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist, was the top American, placing seventh while winning the women’s masters division.
Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at: