Wednesday, June 19, 2013
- By GLENN JORDAN
CAPE ELIZABETH - It's not every competition where 14-minute milers are greeted at the finish line with handshakes and high fives from an Olympic gold medalist, but Joan Benoit Samuelson's Beach to Beacon 10K is not your ordinary road race.
Resplendent in red after running the 6.2-mile course herself alongside fellow marathon legends Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter and 77-year-old former L.L. Bean president Leon Gorman, Samuelson welcomed walkers and runners as if they were long-lost friends.
Behind her, half a dozen volunteers in red vests with large white crosses below the word "MEDICAL" watched for anyone suffering unduly from the heat and humidity.
Yes, it was another hot time in Cape Elizabeth Saturday morning, with approximately six dozen runners treated in the medical tent and one transported to a local hospital, albeit with abdominal pain that first cropped up on Friday.
Even so, more folks made the journey by foot or wheelchair from near Crescent Beach to the Portland Head Light on this first Saturday in August than in any of the previous 14 editions of this annual event: 6,177.
"There were a lot of people out there struggling," Samuelson said, "but they knew their bounds, and they were walking and running and jogging accordingly."
With few clouds, temperatures in the mid 70s and barely a breath of wind, Saturday was not a day for records. Stanley Biwott of Kenya was the only runner to finish in under 28 minutes. His time of 27:58.6 was the second-slowest for a winner in nine years.
Only once since 2002 has the winner taken longer to pass beneath the arch of green and white balloons inside Fort Williams, when Ed Muge ran 28:05 in 2009.
Muge placed fifth Saturday in 28:18, but his wife, Emily Chebet, nearly stole the women's title when each of the two women ahead of her, fellow Kenyans Margaret Wangari-Muriuki and Lineth Chepkurui, misjudged the finish line.
Wangari led from the start but was closely followed by Chepkurui, Chebet and Rita Jeptoo as they turned through the Old Gate into Fort Williams after negotiating the hills of Shore Road. Chepkurui, the course record holder and 2010 champion, pushed ahead at Mile 6 in the backstretch of the park, where on non-race days dogs are allowed to frolic off leash.
Summoning one last burst of energy, Wangari surged back into the lead and headed for victory -- only to downshift shortly before the finish and come to nearly a full stop, oblivious to the two volunteers stretching a formal "break tape" a few yards to her left.
Race director Dave McGillivray noticed Wangari's confusion and beckoned her forward. She took a few steps, crossing the official finish line, and crumpled in a heap moments before Chebet and Chepkurui, who had slowed when it seemed a Wangari victory was inevitable, flew past.
"She said she just got dazed and confused," said Larry Barthlow, the elite athlete coordinator. "It happens to everybody."
Wangari won in 31:51.6 with Chebet six tenths of a second behind. Chepkurui was another two seconds behind followed four seconds later by Jeptoo in one of the closest, most crowded conclusions in race history.
All four Kenyan women were faster than last year's winning time of 32:09 by Aheza Kiros of Ethiopia.
"I didn't see the tape," said Wangari, helped to her feet moments later by McGillivray. "That is why I stopped. My legs were very tired. I couldn't even stand."
First place for both Biwott and Wangari was worth $10,000, with prize money paid out nine more places.
Of the top 10 men, nine hail from Kenya and one from Ethiopia. The top 10 women include three Americans -- Oregonians Renee Baillie of Bend in fifth and Julia Lucas of Eugene in sixth and Rebecca Donaghue (State College, Pa.) in 10th.
(Continued on page 2)
click image to enlarge