Out of the hordes of spectators offering empathy and encouragement to the local boy trying to make good, there was really only one guy who knew exactly how Ben True felt Saturday in the 19th TD Beach to Beacon 10K.

Like True, Matt Lane grew up in Greater Portland.

Like True, Lane twice narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team in the 5,000 meters.

“Physically, he’s great,” Lane said as he watched True attempting to stick with race leader William Malel Sitonik of Kenya as the runners approached Pond Cove late in the fifth mile. “And psychologically, he’s really, really pissed off.”

So when Sitonik failed to shake True and another American, Dathan Ritzenhein of Michigan, before reaching the hills of Shore Road in the final mile, the 18-year African reign at Beach to Beacon was over. Spurred on by determination and a roaring crowd not quite believing what was unfolding, True surged ahead up the final incline and pulled away inside Fort Williams for an astonishing 11-second victory.

True, 30, is the first American runner – male or female – to win the Beach to Beacon title. That he grew up in North Yarmouth and first ran this race as a teenager made his victory even sweeter.


“You hope and you pray and then you see it delivered,” said race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist who grew up in Cape Elizabeth running these same roads. “Knowing about his disappointment and then having him come home and do this in a stellar field, in a special year with the Olympics going on, I would say he got his redemption today.”

Samuelson’s eyes brimmed with tears as True, arms upraised, broke the tape at 28 minutes, 16.3 seconds and continued to her for a heartfelt embrace. This was True’s seventh time at Beach to Beacon, a race he first ran in 2003. He twice won the Maine resident category, and since turning pro had finished 12th overall in 2010 and third in 2014.

Even before True raised goosebumps by barreling to his unprecedented victory, the 19th Beach to Beacon already had taken on a special feel. Friday marked the inaugural High School Mile, and Saturday – instead of a threatened thunderstorm – featured cloud cover, temperatures in the low 70s and an early start for elite women, culminating in Mary Keitany of Kenya lopping 14 seconds off the course record to win in 30:45.0.

In the Maine-only categories, Michelle Lilienthal, 34, of Portland won her second women’s title (in 34:53) and Jesse Orach, 22, of Gorham won in his B2B debut (31:32).

– From the Aug. 7, 2016 edition of the Maine Sunday Telegram

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