Saturday, December 7, 2013
CAPE ELIZABETH - Sheri Piers stepped outside her house Saturday morning and shivered.
The race is over – a race held in muggy conditions – and the Beach to Beacon runners at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth head up a hill to the water stations for a well-deserved drink.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
Off they go Saturday, the elite runners in front for the Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth. Included in the lead pack are, from left to right, Micah Kogo (the winner), Lucas Rotich, Lani Rutto and Hosea Mwok-Macharinyang, all of Kenya.
Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer
She grabbed a long-sleeved shirt and headed to the starting line of the 14th Beach to Beacon 10K road race near Crescent Beach State Park. After a short warmup, that shirt was soaked with sweat.
"I said, 'I can't believe this!' " Piers said. "'It's going to be hot today.' And it was hotter than ever. I don't know what happened."
The unexpected heat and humidity made for a muggy morning along the scenic 6.2-mile course as a record-setting parade of 5,876 runners, walkers and wheelchair racers crossed the finish line in sight of the Portland Head Light.
Piers wound up winning her second Maine women's title Saturday, but in a time nearly a minute slower than the course record she set two years ago.
Micah Kogo of Kenya was on pace for a course record through five miles but downshifted though the rolling hills of the final 1.2 miles and won in 27 minutes, 46.9 seconds, well off Gilbert Okari's 8-year-old record and 6 seconds behind the time of last year's winner, Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia.
That country's athletic federation kept Gebremariam home this year to prepare for the track and field world championships in South Korea later this month, so the first seven men to finish Saturday all hailed from Kenya.
But Aheza Kiros became the Beach to Beacon's second Ethiopian champion, beating all other women in 32:08.7, more than a minute slower than last year's winning time, the course record of 30:59 set by Lineth Chepkurui.
Similarly, Maine's top male -- Louie Luchini of Ellsworth -- was 1:07 slower than Patrick Tarpy's winning time of a year ago. Luchini came in at 30:35.5 -- still the fourth-fastest winning time for the in-state division -- and 7 seconds ahead of runner-up Jonny Wilson of Falmouth in what turned out to be the closest of the event's four major competitions.
"He hung on the whole time," Luchini said. "He ran very strong."
The sunshine that broke through the clouds during Freeport High chorale director Jessica Kenlan's prerace singing of the national anthem may have been a bother for runners, but it was a boon for spectators, who came out in droves.
"The crowds are amazing," said Luchini, 30, who last ran this race nine years ago as a Stanford senior, under orders from his cross country coach not to break 30 minutes. "You go through a section where there's a crowd and I think you pick it up 10 seconds, 15 seconds a mile. It's awesome."
Piers, who picked up $1,000 as the first Maine female, $500 as the second female master and a $100 L.L. Bean gift card and tote bag as Maine's first female master, said the support inside Fort Williams proved crucial to warding off protests from her faltering legs.
"I thought, 'I'm not going to make the last mile,' " she said. "It was tough. But it's so nice to have all the people here. I tell you, the way they're lined up the hill (just inside the gate) and in (to the finish), that really gets you in. It's nice to hear people yelling for you. It really gets you in."
In addition to seeing some of the world's fastest road racers, those lining the course and filling Fort Williams were treated to the sight of Cape Elizabeth's own Christina Kouros breaking the tape as the female wheelchair champion, of a bare-chested man from Portland running from within a homemade lighthouse (one woman peeked over the edge in the finish chute to confirm that he was, indeed, wearing shorts), and of a diverse assortment of prize-winning Top 10 finishers from such home countries as Australia, Burundi, Japan and Romania in addition to Kenya, Ethiopia and, yes, the United States.
Those who stuck around even longer may have seen three Cape Elizabeth parents emerging from the surf at Ship Cove, having swum their version of the race from the Trundy Point beach to beyond the beacon at the mouth of Portland Harbor.
If conditions were challenging on the asphalt, a cooling breeze for the awards ceremony on a grassy knoll overlooking the lighthouse provided a respite.
"We're in great position heading into the 15th year," said race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson, who plans to join the field next August in her once-every-five-years frolic through the streets of her youth. "Every year there's a little bit more to be excited about."
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: