CAPE ELIZABETH — Dave McGillivray has dealt with extreme heat and humidity, a dead skunk, a pile of fish guts and a nest of bees during his 16 years as race director of the TD Beach to Beacon 10K.
One hazard yet to affect the race – but a slight possibility for Saturday morning – is a thunderstorm.
“We’ll be prepared,” McGillivray said. “We’ll be in touch with our medical team and public safety and collectively we’ll make the call. I can only imagine there would be a delay. There wouldn’t be a cancellation.”
McGillivray spoke Friday morning after the traditional press conference at Inn by the Sea to introduce the elite athletes in contention for the overall men’s and women’s titles as well those for the top Maine residents.
The field of approximately 6,500 includes runners from 14 countries, 42 states and 260 towns and cities in Maine.
Defending men’s champion Micah Kogo is back in an attempt to win his third title. Among those challenging him are countrymen Patrick Makau, Bedan Karoki, Emmanuel Bett and Stephen Kosgei Kibet.
“It is a very strong field,” Kogo said. “One of my colleagues, Bedan Karoki, is looking for the fastest time here.”
That would be the 27 minutes, 28 seconds recorded by three-time winner Gilbert Okari in 2003.
Kogo said that, unlike in last August’s Falmouth Road Race, he will not be surprised by Ben True, the North Yarmouth native who has become an accomplished professional runner.
“I didn’t realize that he was really strong,” said Kogo, who needed a late push to hold off True by two seconds in Falmouth. “That’s good, because I’m used to my colleagues. When somebody (new) comes into racing and is competitive, it’s quite interesting.”
Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi is dealing with a tight hamstring and is unlikely to be among the lead pack Saturday. He brought his wife and three young daughters to Maine after announcing Thursday that he will run the New York City Marathon this fall.
As the first American to win at Boston in 31 years – and in the aftermath of the worst tragedy in race history – Keflezighi has been much in demand since April. Throughout his brief visit to New York, he was stopped by all manner of folks who want to take a photo or give him a thumbs-up sign.
“It’s not even congratulations, it’s ‘Thank you, Thank you,’ ” said Keflezighi, a spectator at the 2013 Boston Marathon who drew inspiration from the Red Sox winning the World Series.
“They did it for Boston. That’s awesome. I was like, ‘Can I do it for runners?’ You never know how it’s going to unfold, but if your heart is in the right place and you’re in good condition and it’s the right situation, I feel like God gave me the opportunity to share that story. You couldn’t have scripted it any better.”
The women’s field, for the first time, is absent of Kenyans after that country’s Olympic Committee refused to allow Joyce Chepkirui (the 2013 B2B champ) or Emily Chebet to compete abroad in non-track races. One of two Ethiopian women expected, Tadelech Bekele, was also a scratch because of visa problems.
That leaves only two East African women in the field. Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia is a sub 2:20 marathoner with little experience on the roads. Diane Nukuri-Johnson is a two-time Olympian from Burundi who ran collegiately in Iowa and placed fourth and eighth in previous B2B races. Both are 29.
“We have an Ethiopian and somebody from Burundi,” said race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson.
“So Africa is in the race.”
Among the women attempting to become the first U.S. winner are Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Linden, Jordan Hasay and Alexi Pappas. Gemma Steel of Great Britain, last year’s runner-up, is also in the mix.
Tuesday marks the 30th anniversary of Samuelson’s gold-medal performance in the inaugural Olympic Women’s Marathon in Los Angeles.
After McGillivray spoke passionately about “a woman from Cape Elizabeth who took it out and never looked back,” Samuelson received a standing ovation.
“Family is the most important thing in one’s life,” said Samuelson, fighting to keep control of her emotions, “and you are all family. I mean that.”