Sweet 16: Rain doesn't dampen spirits at TD Beach to Beacon 10k
CAPE ELIZABETH — Wheelchair competitor Christina Kouros was the first local resident to cross the TD Beach to Beacon 10k Road Race finish line Saturday, but said she was almost as glad to beat the raindrops that soon began falling.
"The wheels get really slippery when it rains," said Kouros, 18, after covering the 6.2-mile course in a personal-best time of 41 minutes 17 seconds.
Kouros was at the front of a colorful cascade of joy and exhaustion that marks the conclusion of the annual race.
Whether racers are staggering or smiling, race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson is there at the finish line in Fort Williams Park to greet them – one of the reasons South Portland native Linda Jowett said she keeps signing up to run.
"She stands there and shakes everyone's hand. She greets people at the start. She is very hands-on," Jowett said.
Jowett has missed just one of the 16 races, so long ago she could not recall which year she did not run. The race is a homecoming for the Atkinson, N.H., resident, who stays with her parents the night before. Seven other family members ran Saturday as well.
She called conditions on Aug. 3 "perfect" and said the showers that became a brief downpour as the first runners crossed the finish line were limited to sprinkles on the course.
The rain lasted about 20 minutes, clearing as the mass of runners entered the home stretch at the park.
After crossing the finish line, brothers Nicholas and Benjamin Morrill became spectators, cheering runners on midway between the park entrance at Shore Road and the finish.
"We have run this course a few times," Nicholas Morrill said. This was his first time as a race participant, however, and he discovered practice lacks one element.
"You get a little more adrenaline out there," the Portland resident said.
He said the toughest part of the course for him was the fifth mile, near Robinson Woods on Shore Road. The hills leading to the finish line begin in earnest there and the downhill stretches become fewer.
Getting a race spot is not easy, either, Benjamin Morrill noted. Online registration closes as quickly as the best runners cover a mile; it took less than five minutes for 4,000 spots to fill in March, and the last 2,000 or so were filled through a lottery.
"It goes really quickly," Morrill said. "You have to be ready and keep refreshing (your computer screen)."
The Morrills said they knew 50 or more people in the race and wanted to return the encouragement they got along the course.
"It is nice to have support coming down the stretch," Benjamin said.
Gene Hopkins and his son and daughter came from Norwalk, Conn., to cheer on wife and mother Meghan Hopkins. She grew up in Cape Elizabeth, but was in the race for the first time.
Stationed by a barrier near the old Bachelor Officers Quarters, Hopkins said his wife was nervous.
"It is awesome to see her, but she has never run this far before," he said minutes before she passed by with a high-five.
Back in a tent at the finish line, Kouros, who just graduated from Cape Elizabeth High School, said composure and conserving energy are keys to a successful race.
"I learned to just coast coming down hills," she said. "And I have to keep breathing. Sometimes I forget to do that."