Gemma Steel of Great Britain won this year’s TD Beach to Beacon 10K on Saturday, finishing less than a second ahead of America’s top marathoner, Shalane Flanagan, outpacing her in the final stretch.

“I’m on cloud nine,” said Steel, 28, a Northern Ireland native who finished second last year. “But I’m shocked. I can’t believe it. You always aim to win but hope to come second or third. And I have so much respect for Shalane so this is a really big deal.”

Steel finished in 31 minutes, 27 seconds – a 5:04 minute pace and a personal best. Flanagan was a step behind. Diane Nukuri-Johnson, a native of Burundi who lives in Iowa City, Iowa, was third in 31:52.

“That last 800 meters felt like a track meet,” said Flanagan, 33. “Gemma had some nice, quick steps in there.”

Steel, Flanagan and Jordan Hasay, a 22-year-old former California high school phenom, led in the first few miles. From Mile 5 to the finish, Steel and Flanagan matched one another stride for stride before Steel pulled away in the final stretch.

“I had to grit my teeth, dig in, pump my arms and try to stay calm,” said Steel. “I have such respect for Shalane, I had to remind myself not to be too polite and just go.”


The field for the elite women opened up considerably a few days before the race with the news that defending champion Joyce Chepkirui and fellow Kenyan Emily Chebet wouldn’t run because the Kenyan Olympic Committee would not clear them to compete abroad. A Kenyan woman has won all but three editions of the Beach to Beacon, and the top 10 had never been without a Kenyan.

Flanagan won the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Chicago two weeks ago in 1 hour, 9 minutes, and was the top American at this year’s Boston Marathon, where she finished in 2:22, the fastest time by an American woman in that event.

Because she is eyeing the Berlin Marathon in September, she did not taper for this race. But after learning of the Kenyans’ absence, “I saw that there would be an opportunity that there may not have been otherwise, and thought ‘let’s see if maybe I can do this even on marathon legs,’ ” she said.

“I wanted to win because this is Joanie’s race. I wanted to be the first one in to see Joanie, but I know she was proud of me and that I ran as hard as I could.”

There were a race-record four American women in the top 10. Hasay, of Beaverton, Oregon, finished fourth in 32:20 in her first race on the roads. Her former University of Oregon teammate, Alexi Pappas, was seventh in 32:32, 2012 Olympic marathoner Desiree Linden finished ninth (33:05), and 2008 Olympic marathoner Blake Russell was 10th (33:11).

Steel plans to compete at the Falmouth Road Race in Massachusetts, on Aug. 17. She was second there last year. Then she’ll focus on improving her half marathon personal record of 1:10.


“This,” she said, “was a good step in that direction.”

Jennifer Van Allen can be contacted at 791-6313 or at

Twitter: jgvanallen

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