Stephen Kosgei Kibet looked over his shoulder and almost felt relief. No one was in sight.

After finishing second twice, including last year, and fourth another time, the 28-year-old Kenyan finally won the TD Beach to Beacon 10K on Saturday. He pulled away from the lead pack in the final mile to finish first among a record 6,598 participants in the 18th annual race.

Kibet’s time was 28 minutes, 28.2 seconds, nearly 12 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Moses Kipsiro of Uganda.

It was another near-perfect edition of the race, founded by Joan Benoit Samuelson and run on the roads where she trained while growing up here. While weather conditions seemed ideal at the start – Samuelson called it a “bluebird day” – the day warmed quickly and the pace was slow for just about everyone.

But it was a day of celebration all around. Hundreds of fans lined the streets, some setting up hours before, others having breakfast on their lawn. They banged pots, played music, waved banners and cheered – loudly – as the runners ran past.

Among those who passed by were Boston Marathon bombing victim Karen Rand McWatters and 90-year-old Dottie Gray, who started the race an hour before the other runners. McWatters, a Westbrook native, volunteered last year but soaked in the atmosphere as a participant this year. She promised to return, but not on the course.

“I’ll go back to volunteering,” she said. “I’ll always volunteer. I know what this race means.”

Kibet wasn’t the only elite runner to win a first title Saturday. Women’s winner Wude Ayalew, a 28-year-old from Ethiopia, overtook Burundi’s Diane Nukuri in the final 200 meters, to win in 31:55.5. She finished second and sixth in her previous visits.

– From the Aug. 2, 2015 edition of the Maine Sunday Telegram