It’s a different course and an altogether different feeling in Boston than the last time he raced down Boylston Street, but North Yarmouth native Ben True is looking forward to the challenge.
A two-time champion of the Boston Athletic Association 5K, True is one of 10,000 runners entered in Saturday’s race, held in conjunction with Monday’s marathon.
Now 28 and living in Enfield, N.H., True is a graduate of Greely High and Dartmouth College who has his eye on the 2016 Summer Olympics. He won the BAA 5K in both 2011 and 2012, when the race shared a finish line with the marathon – and a boy who grew up in Maine could turn left from Hereford Street and be presented with a Boylston Street tableau he only dreamed about.
To the delight of local spectators stunned to see a New England kid outkicking Kenyans, True passed three African runners in the deceivingly long final straightaway to win the 2012 race in a record time of 13 minutes, 41 seconds.
“People forget how long that finishing straight is,” True said at the time. “If you go too early, you really will have nothing left for the last 100 meters.”
The runner-up from that race, Sam Chelanga, is now True’s training partner.
“Last summer he called me out of the blue and asked if he could come train with me,” True said. “He was in Eugene with the Oregon Track Club but his wife is from Massachusetts. They just had a child and they wanted to be closer to family.”
True turned pro in 2009 after giving up a long dalliance with Nordic skiing – he competed in both sports in high school and college – and signed a sponsorship deal with Saucony in 2011. The shoe company and True recently agreed on a new contract that extends their partnership to three years with an option.
Chelanga, who is originally from Kenya, competed for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., which is where he and True spent February and March to escape the worst of the New Hampshire winter.
The previous winter, True had trained in Florida, which is where he was when Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist at 5,000 meters, lopped four seconds off True’s record in last April’s BAA 5K.
A few weeks earlier in Bydogoszdz, Poland, True finished sixth – the highest place for an American since 1995 – to lead the United States to a surprising silver medal at the World Cross Country Championships, behind only Ethiopia.
The bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon last April reverberated throughout the world, but hit the running community particularly hard. Heightened security led to the one-day break between this year’s BAA 5K and the marathon and changed the course of Saturday’s race so that it now begins and ends on Charles Street between the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” True said of first seeing the news online. “A lot of the (professional) runners were there and a lot of the runners know people who were there.”
True lost his coach, Mark Coogan, in January after the Dartmouth coach agreed to a new position with New Balance in Boston.
On New Year’s Eve, True gained a fiancee, proposing to his girlfriend of three years (and 2012 Olympic triathlete) Sarah Groff following an evening of moonlit sledding. They plan to marry in October.
Saturday will mark True’s second race of the year. His first, last month in Jacksonville, Fla., earned him $12,000 for winning the Gate River Run, which also serves as the USA 15K championship.
“Going in I was pretty timid,” said True, who took a few months off in the fall because of a hamstring injury that still nags him. “I was wondering how the fitness was. Luckily, the race shows I really haven’t lost anything.”
Groff’s winter training base was New Zealand. She returns to New Hampshire next week after a race in South Africa.
True’s next stop is on the track in California for the Payton Jordan Invitational in early May, when he plans to run the 5,000.
The rest of the year, bereft of Olympics or world championships, will include the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene at the end of May and – possibly – the Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth in August.
“That would be the only race I would do (in Maine),” True said. “It depends on the schedule.”
The Lyme disease that plagued his 2012 Olympic Trials attempt is in the rearview mirror and his long-range sights are set on Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Games, most likely at 5,000 meters.
“Only because I haven’t had success at the 10 yet,” True said. “I’m still trying to figure that one out. I have a better grasp on the 5K now, but you never know what will happen in a few years time.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: