Saturday will mark the first TD Beach to Beacon 10K for two Scarborough residents, Jenn Granata and Amanda Bellerose, who are co-workers and training partners.

Actually it will be their first 10K race of any kind. Truth be told, neither woman has ever run six miles, even in a training session.

“It is a little nerve-racking and they tell me there’s this killer hill at the end of the race and hills still terrify me,” Granata said.

Granata and Bellerose may be novices but they also represent the vast majority of the 6,000-plus participants expected for the 17th annual event that has blossomed into one of America’s premier road races.

They are everyday people, with everyday pressures and time constraints. Family and profession still come first. But both women, like so many recreational athletes, came to the decision that running was a viable – if difficult – path to better fitness.

“For me, running has never been easy,” said Granata. “It’s something I do but I struggle with it constantly and for me to be able to run a 10K – I never thought I would be able to do it.”

The Beach to Beacon has served as a target light for Granata, 35, a mother of three, a nurse practitioner and the emergency room nurse manager at Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford, and Bellerose, 33, mother of two and an emergency room nurse at SMHC.

From a pragmatic standpoint, it was the race they were entered into when they signed up for a 10K training group organized by Fleet Feet Sports (formerly Maine Running). By joining the group at a cost of $200 they were assured a coveted bib, a T-shirt, a 14-week training regimen that emphasized education and core training, and once-a-week group runs directed by Fleet Feet’s Denise Goode, an endurance running coach.

“The biggest thing for beginners is giving them the confidence that they can absolutely do it,” Goode said.

The other reason is the Beach to Beacon, with its elite field, large supportive crowds and the significant presence of race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson, is a race that stands apart.

“It’s the most popular, the one everyone wants to get into,” Granata said. “It just seemed like it would be a good milestone.”

Plus it annually falls on or near Bellerose’s birthday. She’ll turn 34 on Monday.

“I always thought it would be cool to do the race but never thought I would be capable of doing it,” Bellerose said.

The Scarborough women started their trek to a 10K last September when they joined a 5K training group at Fleet Feet, located on Marginal Way in Portland.

“When we started the Couch-to-5K we couldn’t even fathom running a mile without stopping,” Bellerose said.

By using the progressive walk-run interval training model, they gradually increased their endurance and reached their first goal by running the 5K Turkey Trot in Cape Elizabeth. When the 10K training group was about to begin, they asked Goode if they were ready, received her go-ahead and continued on with increased training.

According to Sarah MacColl, Bellerose and Granata have approached their training properly. MacColl is a personal trainer who lives in Cape Elizabeth. In past years she has guided several novices through the process of training for the Beach to Beacon.

MacColl said she asks beginning runners who want to conquer a 10K three questions: Have they found an additional cardiovascular activity to avoid overuse injuries? Do they have the time to commit to training four times a week for at least 20 weeks? And do they have a support system of people to train with or at the least to encourage their training?

“We have to have people around us to keep it fun and support us at 5:30 in the morning when we don’t really want to be out there,” MacColl said. “With those three things anyone can do it unless they have joint problems.”

Neither Bellerose nor Granata have a specific goal time.

Their goal is to go the distance without walking, knowing the final uphill strides in Fort Williams as they run to the Portland Head Light may be the toughest.

“I’m confident that we’ll finish. I’m not 100 percent confident that we’ll do the whole thing without having to walk,” Bellerose said. “It is a hard course.”

“This 10K for me is not about my time,” Granata said. “It’s about the fact that I’m going to run a 10K. That in itself is a win. A year ago I wouldn’t have even thought I could do this. It’s a stretch for me and I like that.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at:

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