Kim True waited in the bleachers with her husband, Jeff, at the finish line of the 2016 TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K road race.

Like all spectators inside Cape Elizabeth’s Fort Williams Park, they had been receiving updates from the race announcer. Excitement grew because their son, Ben, who grew up in North Yarmouth, was among the pack of three lead runners heading down Shore Road.

In 18 previous editions of the Beach to Beacon, no American runner, man or woman, had broken the tape.

“We know that a lot can happen once you get into the park,” Kim True said. “While I never bet against Ben, I knew that he had some real tough competition. I was hoping that the same momentum that brought him into the park in first place would carry him through.”

It did. Ben True, a graduate of Greely High and Dartmouth College, won the race in 28 minutes, 17 seconds. He was 11 seconds ahead of another American, Dathan Ritzenhein of Michigan, with William Malel Sitonik of Kenya in third.

Immediately after crossing the finish line, True was embraced by a teary-eyed Joan Benoit Samuelson, the 1984 Olympic marathon champion and founder of this race through the streets of her hometown.

“You hope and you pray,” Samuelson said afterward, “and then you see it delivered.”

“I can tell you it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life,” Kim True said. “It was just a real thrill to see him win a race that means so much to this region, a race that means so much to my friend Joanie Samuelson, and I know it meant a huge amount to Ben, who has followed that race every year since its inception and had as one of his life’s goals to bring home that title.”

Now 31 and coming off a month on the European track circuit, Ben True is returning to run Beach to Beacon for the eighth time – his first wearing bib No. 1 as defending champion.

“It was a great honor to be the first American to win Beach to Beacon,” he said, speaking softly by phone from his home just outside of Hanover, New Hampshire. “Growing up, that was the first big road race, along with the Boston Marathon, that I knew about. So it was cool to be able to win it.”

Joan Benoit Samuelson hugs Ben True as he comes on stage to accept his first-place trophy in the men’s elite category after the 19th annual TD Beach to Beacon on August 6, 2016. True, originally from North Yarmouth, is the first American man to win the race. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Despite the historic nature of his victory last August, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. He was racing in Cape Elizabeth only because he had come up short – for the second time – of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team at 5,000 or 10,000 meters. His wife, Sarah True, an accomplished triathlete, already had qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after placing fourth in London in 2012.

“I think he could have won a million dollars and every road race after the (Olympic) trials,” said Tim Broe, his former coach, “and there still would have been a big black cloud following him.”

True indeed has won every road race since those trials. He pocketed $15,000 for Beach to Beacon (10 grand for winning and five for being the top American), $5,000 for the Manchester (Connecticut) Road Race on Thanksgiving (over three Olympians), and $7,500 in April for the Boston Athletic Association 5K, at which he lowered his American record to 13 minutes, 19.9 seconds.

“Ben never surprises me when it comes to road racing,” Broe said. “He has a lot of unique talents, and one of them is being able to run up and down hills and maintain world-class pace the way that the Africans can.”

True and Broe still keep in touch but their relationship now is more of friend and advisor. Broe lives in Boston and coaches the Freedom Track Club, an elite development group sponsored by Saucony, the running shoe company that also sponsors True.

This year, track and field’s world championships open in London the same day as Beach to Beacon. True will be running down Shore Road because at the national championships in late June in Sacramento, he placed fourth at 5,000 meters.

Paul Chelimo, the silver medalist in Rio, made an early break and True led the chase pack, thinking Chelimo wouldn’t be able to maintain his cushion.

He did, and wound up with a meet record.

“Unfortunately, two people who sat on me the whole way were able to sprint by me in the last 200 meters,” True said of Eric Jenkins and Ryan Hill. “It was disappointing but that’s part of racing.”

The top three qualified for London. True settled for Maine, where he will attempt a 10K for the first time since last August. He’s been focusing on shorter distances this year, starting with three indoor races in January and February.

He ran a personal-best 3:57.6 in the mile at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, won at 2 miles (8:11.33) in the Millrose Games in New York and took third in Boston University’s Last Chance Meet with 13:06.74 for 5,000 meters.

“It’s really the first time I’ve ever had an indoor season,” True said. “That was fun. I just wanted to try something new and it seemed like a good year to do that.”

On Monday, True returned from three weeks in Europe, where he was racing on the Diamond League track and field circuit. He placed sixth in a 3,000-meter race in Paris and sixth at 5,000 meters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Last weekend, at a non-Diamond League race in Belgium, he was third at 5,000 meters.

Sarah True, who has moved up to the 70.3-kilometer triathlon from Olympic distance this season, will be in Maine to watch her husband run. Kim and Jeff True will be back as well. Only Samuelson, who plans to run this 20th edition herself, won’t be waiting at the finish line with open arms should the local boy defend his title against yet another stellar international field.

“I’ll run as hard as I can,” True said, “and see what happens.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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