CAPE ELIZABETH — Whether it was a 9-year-old girl running her first race, or a 90-year-old woman running her last, the ages of the 6,500 runners in the Aug. 1 TD Beach to Beacon 10K spanned decades.

Dottie Gray, 90, of Kirkwood, Missouri, was the oldest runner for the fifth consecutive year. At the awards ceremony for the 18th annual race she announced it was the last time she would run.

Mairead Ferrie, 9, of Scarborough, was the youngest runner and finished with a time of 1:01:46. She said she ran “so I could complete something and be very young.”

Another 9-year-old – one of three in the field – said the race was “sort of hard,” but he enjoyed it.

“It felt really good,” Gabriel Berman, of Cape Elizabeth, said after finishing Saturday’s race in 1:11:56.

Berman and his 12-year-old sister Isabel ran the race with their father and raised $5,000 for Spurwink Services.

“It feels powerful,” Isabel said. “It felt good to raise money.”

Although the race she created has annually featured many young runners, Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson said she doesn’t think it’s healthy for kids, whose bodies are still developing, to run long distances.

“Personally, my feeling is if you’re under 14, you shouldn’t be running a 10K,” Samuelson said earlier in race week. “You’re doing your children a favor by not having them run long distance.”

Samuelson said kids should run in the Kids Fun Run, which is held the day before the 10K.

Some kids said the smaller race isn’t challenging enough, though.

“I wanted to do (the 10K),” Tommy Bancroft, 13, of South Paris, said. “It’s more fun, more exciting.”

Bancroft finished eighth overall in the 14-and-under group with a time of 43:43. His father, Mark Bancroft, who is a legacy runner, said he encouraged his son to run the 10K.

“I’ve been waiting all his life for this,” Mark Bancroft said.

The 14-and-under prize category exists despite Samuelson’s aversion to it. The winning girl was Bethany Sholl, 14, of Scarborough, with a time of 44:29 and the fastest boy was Cameron Ashby, 14, of Brunswick, with a time of 41:17.

Samuelson said because so many young people run the Beach to Beacon, she’s thinking of incorporating a one-mile event for high school students. She said it would still provide runners with a challenge, without being too much of a strain on their bodies.

But some said one mile still isn’t enough.

“I wanted to challenge myself,” Wyatt Kenney, 12, of Gray, said. “The six miles kind of sounded intimidating.”

Kenney finished the race in 49:57 and said it “was on the harder side.”

Elite runners, most of whom are between 10 and 15 years older than the young runners, said they started running as kids, too. Erica Jesseman, 26, of Scarborough, said she started running when she was 12 and shortly after that won her first race in her age group.

At this year’s Beach to Beacon, Jesseman placed 10th overall for women with a time of 34:52.

“I think I came in the top 10 for females, so I’m pretty excited about that,” she said.

Jesseman also had advice for young runners.

“I think kids starting at a young age need to enjoy it and have fun,” she said. “Don’t take it so overly competitive.”

Last year’s top woman, Gemma Steel, 29, of Great Britain, came in fourth this year with a time of 32:56. She said she started running at 10, but didn’t do it competitively until she was 19.

“These kids got a head start over me,” she said after the 10K.

Steel said young runners should know running is a long process and they shouldn’t “expect too much too soon.” She also said kids “have to want to do it. They can’t be pushed too hard.”

Kenyan Stephen Koskei Kibet, 28, was the fastest overall finisher with a time of 28:28. Wude Ayalew, 28, of Ethiopia, was the first woman, with a time of 31:55.

The men’s wheelchair division was won by James Senbeta, 28, of Champaign, Illinois, in a race record 21:46. Cape Elizabeth’s Christina Kouros, 20, the only woman wheelchair competitor, finished in 39:39.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Sidebar Elements

Nine-year-old Mairead Ferrie, of Scarborough, receives a celebratory embrace from mother Stephanie Ferrie on Saturday, Aug. 1, after successfully completing the TD Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth.

Dottie Gray, 90, of Kirkwood, Missouri, accepts her fifth consecutive award for being the oldest runner to complete the TD Beach to Beacon 10K. Gray, whose daughter lives in Cape Elizabeth, used the opportunity to announce that this was her final Beach to Beacon race.

Marisa Carbone, 16, of Scarborough, smiles Saturday, Aug. 1, after completing the TD Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth.

George Hirsch, 81, of New York, New York, finishes the TD Beach to Beacon 10K.

Twelve-year-old Wyatt Kenney, of Gray, is congratulated by father Scott Kenney at the completion of the TD Beach to Beacon 10K.

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