A few minutes before the start of the seventh Peoples Beach to Beacon 10K road race Sunday, as raindrops spattered thousands of runners gathered behind the starting line on rural Route 77, Joan Benoit Samuelson took the microphone.

“The weather is a little bit different at the finish line,” she advised, “so you’ll have to hurry up and get there to see the sun.”

As it turned out, the sun waited for all 4,354 finishers to complete the 6.2-mile course from near Crescent Beach State Park to the Portland Head Light before breaking through the gray clouds.

Ethan Hemphill of Freeport, the first Maine runner across the finish line, was thrilled to avoid what could have been a hot and humid morning.

“I woke up at 5:15 and checked the weather,” Hemphill said. “I saw the gray skies and thought, ‘Great! That’s perfect for me.’ ”

Indeed, it was perfect weather for running – if not viewing – but the umbrella-clutching crowds along the course didn’t seem to mind as they cheered Kenyans Gilbert Okari and Susan Chepkemei to victory. Both earned $10,000.

No records fell on the rain-slicked roads, but Chepkemei’s time of 31 minutes, 35.1 seconds was only 1.1 second shy of the mark set by Catherine Ndereba, the five-time champion, in 2001.

After winning last year’s race on his birthday in a time (27:28) that turned out to be the fastest of 2003, Okari won a three-man sprint through the south side of Fort Williams Park to win in 27:35, the fastest time of 2004.

Hemphill, 32, surged up the final hill before the park to finally shake 22-year-old Evan Graves of Bar Harbor and win by three seconds the $1,000 prize for first Mainer, in 31:46. He was 22nd overall.

Susannah Beck, 36, of Yarmouth won the Maine women’s division by more than a minute in 35:22. Emily LeVan of Wiscasset was second and Maggie Hanson of Bowdoinham, the 2003 champ, was third.

Not only was this the first Beach to Beacon run in the rain, it was the first run on a Sunday, to avoid a conflict with next weekend’s Falmouth (Mass.) Road Race.

– From the Aug. 2, 2004 edition of the Portland Press Herald