The record is going down. Sheri Piers of Falmouth and Kristin Barry of Scarborough can feel it.

Assuming the weather for Saturday’s 17th Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race is relatively cooperative, the first Maine woman across the finish line is likely to lower the course record Piers set in 2009 and perhaps even be the first to break 34 minutes over the hilly 6.2-mile stretch.

And the crazy thing is, neither Piers nor Barry will be there to see it happen. They likely will still be somewhere on Shore Road, ahead of nearly every other woman their age (40 and above) but no longer matching strides with defending Maine champion Erica Jesseman of Scarborough or newcomer Michelle Lillenthal, a Midwestern transplant living in Portland.

“In our mind, we still have the competitive mentality,” said Barry, a mother of two who first took down the race’s longest-held record in 2008, when both she and her good friend and training partner Piers beat Julia Kirtland’s time of 34 minutes, 56 seconds in the inaugural race in 1998. “I know there’s no one who would work harder, but there comes a point where your body can only do so much. It doesn’t cooperate. We’re getting older. We’re getting slower.”

For a five-year stretch, Barry and Piers reigned supreme among women in Maine running circles. Piers won three B2B titles and Barry two, including the 2008 race in a then-record 34:38 with Piers – who had never before run under 36 minutes – only 10 seconds behind. The expression on the face of Piers in their postrace hug shows her incredulity at having lopped a minute and a half from her previous best time.

“I’m awful with the watch,” Piers said. “I don’t know what I’m doing half the time.”


So, after crossing the finish line in sight of the Portland Head Light, she kept asking Barry for confirmation of her time. Is that right? Can that be?

“I was so excited, wasn’t I?” Piers said.

“That was a big breakthrough for both of us,” Barry said.

“We were trying to chase that record for so long,” said Piers, who met Barry at a Turkey Trot nine years ago. “When Kristin did it first, I was so happy for her.”

The following summer, at age 38, Piers lowered the record to its current standard of 34:17. They finished hand-in-hand in 2010 (with officials eventually declaring Barry the official winner) and Piers took the 2011 and 2012 titles, both under hot and humid conditions, while Barry dealt with injury and illness.

Last summer signaled a changing of the guard, as Jesseman, now 25, came within a second of the course record (34:17.6) and Piers arrived 23 seconds later. Three minutes passed before Barry, who was recovering from a pelvic fracture she called “the worst injury of my life,” passed beneath the arch of green and white balloons.


Although Barry maintained a mile pace (6:01) the envy of any of the 6,000-plus runners who came in behind her, Piers knew how gut-wrenching it had been to come back after missing the previous two B2Bs and not be able to return to her old form.

“I felt emotional for her because both of us want to see (the other) do well,” said Piers, who teared up in the recovery area after the race. “I knew that was going to be humiliating for her. So when she came across the line, I felt so bad for her.”

They laugh about it now, but the poignancy remains. Piers is 43 and has three children. She had kidney surgery earlier this month. Her times in races leading up to B2B are about a minute slower than in previous years. Barry, 40, has had some problems with her leg.

“There’s such a draw there,” said Barry, who returned to Maine from law school in Washington, D.C., to run in the very first Beach to Beacon 16 years ago. “It’s on road that I ran on all the time growing up. To have that type of field assembled here, in our own backyard, is pretty special.”

It’s the yin and the yang of the high-level runner, thrilled to have the opportunity of competing in such a prestigious race, anguished over the inevitable decline in performance and ability.

“This is going to be a tough year for us,” Piers said. “We’re going to see, probably, the record go down. We chased that for a long time. That’s going to happen. Good for whoever does it. Don’t get me wrong. That’s not sour grapes. Records are made to be broken.


“We’ll have each other. But this is going to be an emotionally tough year.”

The bond between these two is something that can be difficult to understand. Winning or losing a race, placing wherever they do, all of that is secondary to the individual time goals they set and their dogged determination to reach them.

Sometimes they wonder what might have been if only they had met in high school (Barry was a South Portland freshman when Piers was a Westbrook senior) or college (Barry ran at Dartmouth; Piers played basketball at St. Joseph’s) instead of when both were north of 30. Still, theirs has been a friendship that will endure, complete with Olympic Marathon trials, a top American finish at the Boston Marathon (Piers in 2012) and coaching the Cheverus High cross country team (Barry, with assistance from Piers).

Piers: “We wanted to break 34 for so long.”

Barry: “So many years.”

Piers: “And on this course.”


Barry: “That was the big thing.”

On Saturday, they’re not breaking 34. They’re probably not breaking 35.

Then again, that bond they’ve forged over the past nine years?

They’re not breaking that, either.


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