Beach to Beacon turns 20

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Defending men’s champion Ben True, the one-time Greely High standout, leads a stellar field for the 20th annual Beach to Beach road race, which will be contested Saturday morning in Cape Elizabeth.

Kenya’s Mary Keitany returns as the women’s champion and looks to dominate the field once again.

The state’s most famous road race is about to celebrate a landmark birthday.

Saturday morning in Cape Elizabeth, the TD Beach to Beacon 10K will turn 20.

And it’s certainly aging gracefully.

Last year, 6,336 runners from 15 countries, 43 states and more than 265 Maine cities and towns participated.

This summer, the brainchild of 1984 Olympic women’s marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson (who plans to run this year) will boast a field of over 6,500 runners (nearly triple the original field of 2,400). The field will be led by defending men’s champion Ben True, the one-time Greely High standout who won last year’s race in 28 minutes, 16 seconds, and reigning women’s champion Mary Keitany of Kenya, who rolled to victory a year ago in 30:45.

The race meanders 6.2 miles from its start on Route 77 near Crescent Beach State Park to its finish at Fort Williams, in the shadow of the famed Portland Head Light. 

True will be pushed this time around by the likes of Kenyan Stephen Kosgei Kibet, the 2015 men’s champion, Kenyan Stephen Sambu, Ethiopian Tariku Bekele, the bronze medalist at 10,000m at the 2012 London Olympics, and former Brunswick High standout Will Geoghegan. 

On the women’s side, Keitany will get a challenge from 2015 women’s champion Wude Ayalew, of Ethiopia, 2013 champion Joyce Chepkirui of Kenya and Olympic silver medalist Shalane Flanagan.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 volunteers will help ensure the day goes smoothly.

This year’s beneficiary is Let’s Go!, a nationally recognized program of The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center focused on increasing physical activity and healthy eating for children from birth to age 18. Let’s Go! will receive a $30,000 donation from the TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank.

The race begins at 7:55 a.m. with the 10K wheelchair division, followed by the Elite Women’s Start at 8 a.m. and the general field at 8:12 a.m. Over $90,000 in prize money is up for grabs.

There will also be a high school mile and a children’s 1K race Friday at Fort Williams. 

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.