August 6, 2011

For one runner, back to where it began

By Glenn Jordan
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH - A cool breeze and overcast skies greeted the elite runners assembled beneath a large white tent near Inn by the Sea for the traditional Friday press conference heralding today's 14th running of the Beach to Beacon 10K road race.

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Diane Nukuri Johnson attended the University of Iowa after representing Burundi in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

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Allan Kiprono of Kenya, who placed second in the Beach to Beacon last year in his American road racing debut, fills out his registration forms with another Kenyan, Lani Rutto.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

By the time it was over, and the runners were assembling on the grass for a group photo, the sun had broken through and Allan Kiprono was smiling.

Of course, Kiprono always seems to be smiling. A year ago he was wide-eyed and eager, and making his American road racing debut in Cape Elizabeth.

That his bib read "Alan" didn't bother him in the least. He wore a necklace of green plastic beads that he called "just bling" and found himself in the lead after 2 miles with only fellow Kenyan Wilson Chebet ahead of him as they entered Fort Williams.

Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia wound up kicking past both Kenyans, but Kiprono held on for second place, a time of 27 minutes, 42 seconds that remains his personal best at 10 kilometers, and a check for $5,000.

"That has given me a chance to know," Kiprono said, "I can do it."

Wearing a plaid short-sleeved button-down shirt, khaki shorts and lime green flip flops, Kiprono, 21, looked as if he'd feel at home in the Old Port, just another college-age kid on summer break.

Instead he's a working professional about to run his eighth race of the year. He won the Bellin Run 10K in Green Bay, Wis., in June and finished second in three other major races: the Bix 7-miler in Davenport, Iowa; the Bloomsday 12K in Spokane, Wash.; and the Crescent City Classic 10K in New Orleans.

Prize money has enabled him to buy a new house for his parents, "to give them a good life, and then I can focus on my future life," he said.

Kiprono also became friends with Anders Samuelson, son of the Beach to Beach founder, who spent time at a training camp in Iten, Kenya, earlier this year.

"It was about three weeks with him," Kiprono said. "We used to train together early in the morning."

Kiprono said he lost his green necklace on the plane ride back home last year but doing so didn't diminish the memory of his dazzling debut.

"When I come here," he said, "I feel comfortable." 

DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, the race director, has a tradition of celebrating his birthday by running a corresponding number of miles. He'll turn 57 later this month and is beginning to regret not using his 50th to start counting back down so he'd only have a 10-miler awaiting his 90th birthday.

"I'm ready to do it," McGillivray said. "I'm just waiting for the weather to cooperate."

As fit as he is, McGillivray said he's not ready to reel off 57 miles in temperatures above 80.

McGillivray, who has directed every Beach to Beacon, announced his retirement Friday. But noting he'll be putting five children through college, he said his retirement wouldn't take effect until 2050.

"I'll be 95 and I'll be directing this event," he said. "As long as you'll sponsor it and you'll have me, I'm sticking around." 

IN EXPLAINING the reasons for the success of the Beach to Beacon, McGillivray listed six. The first five:

1. Top-notch organization.

2. Elite athletes and the home-stay program.

3. An aesthetically-pleasing course.

4. Generous sponsors.

5. Widespread community support.

The sixth, which he called the secret ingredient only found here in Maine, is the race founder, Joan Benoit Samuelson.

Take the first five "and sprinkle it with a little bit of Joanie," McGillivray said, "and you've got the best possible event in the world." 

(Continued on page 2)

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