The scene just beyond the finish line of the 17th annual TD Beach to Beacon 10K resembled a bowling alley with human pins.

Four runners had arrived but only North Yarmouth native Ben True remained on his feet. He bent over and clasped hands with each of the three Kenyans sprawled on the green turf beneath the arch of green and white balloons.

Bedan Karoki, 23, turned over to his back and squeezed True’s hand. It was Karoki who pushed the pace from Crescent Beach all the way to Fort Williams on Saturday and broke the tape in 27 minutes, 36.4 seconds – fastest in the world this year for a 10-kilometer road race.

To Karoki’s left lay Stephen Kosgei, the runner-up by six seconds. To the right was Patrick Makau, who was fourth in 27:56.

True finished third in 27:49 – the highest overall placing by an American male in race history.

“Ben True ran out of his mind,” said Larry Barthlow, who recruits the Kenyans and other elite athletes to this race each year. “I think that’s the biggest surprise. His race was amazing.”

Still, True being True, he took in the scene and figured the only guy standing had too much left in his tank.

“It was evident that they put it all out there,” he said. “I think that if I had burned a little bit more in the middle I could have had a lot more at the end.”

For the 17th year in a row, no American won the men’s or women’s title. But True and women’s runner-up Shalane Flanagan came as close as any U.S. runners since Libbie Hickman broke the ceremonial tape in 2000 but lost when the timing chip on Catherine Ndereba’s shoe crossed the electronic mat first.

Under overcast skies and occasional spits of rain, Gemma Steel, a Northern Ireland native representing Great Britain, outkicked Flanagan to win in 31:27 and become the race’s first non-African female champion since Luminita Talpos of Romania in 2007.

In the Maine resident category, Will Geoghegan of Brunswick became only the third male winner to break 30 minutes (29:53) and Minnesota transplant Michelle Lilienthal of Portland lopped more than a half-minute from the women’s course record, with a time of 33:39.

By the time the final stragglers among the record field of 6,488 completed their 6.2-mile journey, the beacon beckoned with foghorn blasts.

– From the Aug. 3, 2014 edition of the Maine Sunday Telegram

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