Four months ago, Meb Keflezighi’s victory at the Boston Marathon ended a 31-year drought for American runners.

The Beach to Beacon 10K, in its 17th year, has never had an American winner. Keflezighi’s fourth place two years ago was the best for an American male in Cape Elizabeth.

So imagine how the crowds lining Shore Road and inside Fort Williams would react upon seeing not just an American runner in the lead group heading toward the Portland Head Light but a Mainer to boot.

Only one guy is capable of making that happen.

“When I toe the line in any race,” said Ben True, a North Yarmouth native, “I’m looking to win the race.”

True, a Greely High and Dartmouth College graduate who is now a 28-year-old professional runner living and training in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, returns to the Beach to Beacon for the sixth time Saturday.


He ran it three times between 2003 and 2008 while in high school and college, set the Maine resident course record of 29 minutes, 10 seconds in 2009 (chopping 1:24 off the previous mark set by Eric Giddings of South Portland in 2005) and placed 12th overall in 2010 as a pro.

But does he have a realistic chance against a formidable contingent of East Africans led by the defending champ, Micah Kogo?

Well, consider that a week after Kogo won the 2013 Beach to Beacon, he found himself being challenged in the final stages of the venerable Falmouth Road Race, a seven-miler on Cape Cod, by True.

“I know some strong … guys like Ryan Hall and so many others,” Kogo told reporters afterward. “But today I didn’t know this guy who was so strong.”

A late push on the crest of the final hill gave him a slight edge on True, who finished two seconds behind Kogo, an Olympic bronze medalist who also won the 2011 Beach to Beacon. Kenyans, in fact, have won 13 of the past 14 Beach to Beacons, with Ethiopian Gebre Gebremariam in 2010 the lone exception.

So yes, a True victory is unlikely. And yet …


“It would be a great race to watch,” said the race founder, Joan Benoit Samuelson. “I think he has a great chance to take the laurels. He certainly has the speed to carry him over this course with the best runners in the world.”

Indeed, True has twice won the Boston Athletic Association 5K (on the eve of the marathon) and this April missed a third title in a photo finish with Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia. In March, True won his fourth national title, the 15K Gate City Run in 43:04 in Jacksonville, Florida. In early May he won the Payton Jordan Invitational 5,000-meter in 13:02, a time nine seconds faster than his previous best at that distance.

The Prefontaine Classic 5K at the end of May didn’t go as well: True finished 11th in 13:25. He traveled to France in early July and finished 11th (13:13) in a Diamond League meet in Paris.

“I’m not in 10K shape; I’m in 5K shape,” True said. “But hopefully that will bode well. As long as I can hang on the first five miles, I’ll be good to go once we enter Fort Williams Park.”

Samuelson said True has something else going for him besides his status as a hometown favorite. Throughout high school and college, True spent his winters skiing and initially thought double-poling might be his best path to an Olympic berth.

“What Ben brings is brute strength and tenacity,” Samuelson said. “I’m not the skier that Ben is, but I do a lot of Nordic skiing in the winters, and I always seem to run faster in the spring than in the fall because you have to really use your upper arms in Nordic skiing.”


Runners, Samuelson said, tend to be much stronger in their legs than arms. True’s upper-body strength is particularly useful on hills and finishing kicks.

“He’s just strong and agile, and can change gears faster than most runners,” Samuelson said. “I think a lot of that is due to his background in Nordic skiing.”

Regardless of the outcome, True said he will skip Falmouth to return to Europe, where he plans to run 5,000-meter races in Sweden and Switzerland.

A few fall road races are also on the docket, but as yet undetermined. He’s also marrying an Olympic triathlete, Sarah Groff, in October.

A longtime NASCAR fan, True naturally prefers the roads to the track. No clocks. No even pacing. Just pure racing.

“Road races are all about competing rather than time,” he said. “Most all road races that I enter, I enter because I believe I can win the race. And lately either I’m there or I’m pretty close.”

A two-time Maine resident winner becoming the overall winner? It’s not out of the question.

“It would be a great day for Maine if he wins,” Samuelson said. “My hope is that in a couple of years he’ll have some counterparts on the women’s side.”

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