Danielle Rankin stands with her grandfather, Dan Foley, at the starting line of the TD Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth on Friday. Foley, 86, has run in each of the 22 Beach to Beacons, at least 10 of them with his granddaughter. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

CAPE ELIZABETH — After the 2020 TD Beach to Beacon 10K was canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak, the “legacy runners” – 103 people who have run in each of the races since it started in 1998 – were told their status would carry over to next year.

For Dan Foley, that wasn’t enough. At 86, with balky knees, he said he isn’t sure he’ll be able to run it next year.

So on Friday morning, he and his granddaughter, Danielle Rankin, kept his streak going. Sort of.

The two got up early and walked a little over 2 miles of the course, beginning at the starting line and finishing up with the last half-mile into Fort Williams Park and the finish line. Foley, who had a mole removed from his face Thursday and is restricted from running until it heals, did jog across what would have been the finish line.

“I feel great,” said Foley. “It was a good feeling to be out there.”

The 23rd annual Beach to Beacon was to be held Saturday, with more than 6,500 runners expected. Cape Elizabeth police and race officials have asked people to not run the race course on Saturday, citing safety issues. That was one of the reasons why Foley and his granddaughter were on the course Friday.

“I didn’t want to take the chance of him being around any big crowds,” said Rankin.

When he is healed, said Rankin, the two plan to run the course.

It was important to Foley to get on the course this year. “I’m a traditionalist,” he said. “And it’s a very special race. I live at Higgins Beach (in Scarborough), so it’s in my area. And it’s really kind of homey. It’s just really a nice race.”

That Foley was back on the course is impressive. In November, he had heart surgery, replacing a valve that was blocked with calcium deposits. He had noticed he was easily getting tired when he ran. Since the surgery, he said he’s back on track.

Dan Foley with his granddaughter, Danielle Rankin. Foley, 86, had a knee replacement 14 years ago and heart surgery in November. One of the Beach to Beacon “legacy runners,” he still runs four times a week. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“It had been cutting down the flow of blood, I knew I was getting slower and slower and slower,” said Foley. “So we had the surgery and it worked. It’s a miracle for me. I feel much, much better, like night and day. I noticed it the very first time I went back out.”

And then there’s the knees. Foley had his left knee replaced 14 years ago and wears a brace on the other.

Still, he runs four times a week, driving to the IGA supermarket in Cape Elizabeth, where he parks. From there, he’ll run to the starting line of the Beach to Beacon and back.

“All in all it’s working out well,” said Foley. “I don’t push myself. I just go out and do what my knees will give me. Some days they bark at me and some days they don’t.”

Foley grew up in Portland and played multiple sports. After high school, he joined the U.S. Army before eventually attending the University of Maine, from where he graduated in 1963. Then he moved to Boston, where he worked for various oil companies. He became involved with a group of friends who knew Bill Rodgers, the iconic distance runner. “That’s when I began to run every day,” said Foley.

After he moved back to Maine, he would see race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson running along the roads – “Sometimes we’d run together, but only for a very short while,” said Foley – and when she started this race, he knew he had to be part of it.

“When it first started, I went over the day before and signed up at Cape Elizabeth (High School) and there was no problem whatsoever,” he said. “Now? You can’t do that.  This thing has blossomed. It’s totally amazing what has happened. You’re at the starting line and you look up and see all the people ahead of you, then you look back and see all the people behind you.”

His best time, he said, was a sub-60:00 race in one of the early years. Last year, he ran it in 1:47:45, finishing 6,383rd of 6,417 runners. That time lopped 1:13 off his 2018 time.

He got his granddaughter involved in running at a young age. The two have run the Beach to Beacon together at least 10 times.

“It’s our summer tradition,” said Rankin, 36, who lives in Chelsea, Massachusetts. “It’s like a holiday for our family. He really is in love with this race. I remember when I was little, he was always so excited for it. He’s always admired Joan. So he ran it every year, and as soon as I was old enough to run with him, I joined him.”

She said the first couple of miles of the race, before the sun gets too high in the sky, are perfect. “Then, boom,” she said. “It gets hard. We always joke that the worst part of the race is the last hill before the finish line.”

“Yes,” said Foley. “We bypassed that today.”

They have their race-day rituals, which includes going out for a hot dog at the Cumberland Farms in Cape Elizabeth after the race is over. “My grandfather says the sodium is good for him after we race,” said Rankin, with a chuckle.

Even Friday, the two planned on picking up a couple of hot dogs.

Rankin marvels at her grandfather’s stamina and perseverance.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “I brag about him to everyone. He’s more than twice my age and he still runs four, five times a week. He’s a pretty impressive guy.”

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