Rituals rule at 17th TD Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth

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CAPE ELIZABETH — It was the evening before the TD Beach to Beacon 10K when a local teenage distance-running standout revealed Ben True’s secret to success.

“I heard a rumor that you eat six bagels before you run,” recent Cape Elizabeth High School graduate Liam Simpson asked elite runner True at a small question-and-answer session for young runners on Aug. 1.

True, originally from Maine, paused before answering.

“Yes,” he replied sheepishly. “I actually just went to the store.”

With that, True reached under the table he shared with fellow runners Shalane Flanagan and Meb Keflezighi and pulled out a full sleeve of bagels. After the laughter subsided, True said he likes to run on a full stomach to prevent food from moving around.

After more laughter, Flanagan and Keflezighi said they don’t subscribe to this pre-race ritual.

But every runner has a different way of preparing for a big race, and on the morning of Aug. 2, before the 17th annual Beach to Beacon road race, many of the 6,500 participants couldn’t run before first doing something else.

“I eat a peanut butter-and-jelly (sandwich) an hour and a half before a race for good luck,” said Will Geoghegan, 22, of Brunswick. The PB and J seemed to do the trick: Geoghan finished first among Maine men in 29:53.

After the race, Geoghegan admitted he didn’t have the chance to train for the race as he normally does. He said the Beach to Beacon was his first serious race of the summer.

“I didn’t prepare like I usually do,” Geoghegan said. “I wanted to come in here and see what I could do.”

True, who now lives in Hanover, N.H., said that aside from eating several bagels, the biggest part of getting ready for a race is that he has to prepare year-round. True placed third overall in 27:49.

“I’m pleased with today,” he said post-race. “I wanted to be in contention for the win, but that’s how it goes.”

The winner of the race was Bedan Karoki of Kenya, who beat True by 13 seconds.

On the women’s side, Erica Jesseman, 25, of Scarborough, finished second among Maine women in 34:16. She said her pre-race ritual involves being calm and relaxed.

“I definitely pray, but I also spend time with my family and friends,” Jesseman said. “It puts me in a good place mentally, especially because this race is so stressful. Being in my home state, I want to perform well.”

Jesseman also said she likes to arrive at all her races 90 minutes early to have time to herself and to stretch.

Elite runners weren’t the only ones who had particular ways they prepared for the race.

Cape Elizabeth resident Jack Sands, 12, did a trial run prior to the race and has run 5Ks in the past.

“I ran four miles with my dad a few days ago,” Sands said. “This is the furthest I’ve ever run.”

Sands’ preparation paid off when he finished the race in 50 minutes, and beat his dad.

Unlike True, Sands said he doesn’t like to run on a full stomach. But Nancy O’Sullivan, also of Cape Elizabeth, said she has something she must eat before a race.

“I have to have a banana,” she said. Her friends and running colleagues agreed, saying they must have coffee and oatmeal.

As for training for the race, O’Sullivan said her group did nothing extra.

“We’re runners, so we’ve been running anyways,” she said.

A few days prior to the race, Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, founder of the Beach to Beacon, said the community is one of her favorite things about running. No matter how they prepare, she said she’s glad to have an event that brings together people of so many skill levels.

“I said I really want to do (the Beach to Beacon),” Samuelson said, “because there is no other sport in the world where you can take a champion runner and put them at the starting line next to an everyday runner.”

From bagels and bananas, to peanut butter and jelly, or nothing at all, it’s all part of the smorgasbord that makes Maine’s largest road race.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Sidebar Elements


Gemma Steel, of the United Kingdom, edges out American Shalene Flanagan by a fraction of a second Saturday to win the women’s division at the 17th annual TD Beach to Beacon in Cape Elizabeth.

Elite runners lead the field at the start of the the TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race on Saturday morning, Aug. 2, in Cape Elizabeth.

Bedan Karoki of Kenya, wearing bib No. 6, at the front of the lead pack in the TD Beach to Beacon 10K on Saturday, Aug. 2, in Cape Elizabeth. Karoki went on to win in a time of 27:36.

Former Maine resident Ben True grabs a third-place finish during the 17th TD Beach to Beacon 10K on Aug. 2. True, who now lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, finished with a time of 27:49.8. He consumes a bag of bagels before every race.

Bedan Karoki Muchiri, of Kenya, clasps hands with Joan Benoit Samuelson after his first-place finish Saturday at the TD Beach to Beacon 10K. Muchiri finshed with a time of 27:36.4, which is about 11 seconds shy of the record set by fellow Kenyan Gilbert Okari in 2003.

Will Geoghegan, of Brunswick, is cheered as he crosses the finish line Aug. 2 at the TD Beach to Beacon 10K. Geoghegan was the fastest Mainer with a time of 29:53. His pre-race ritual includes a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich 90 minutes prior to the start.

Will Geoghegan, of Brunswick, crosses the finish line Saturday at the TD Beach to Beacon 10K. Geoghegan was the fastest Mainer with a time of 29:53.

Second-place finisher Stephen Kosgei Kibet, of Kenya, catches his breath Saturday at the finish line of the TD Beach to Beacon.

Patrick Bonnar, of Topsham, rests against a signpost Saturday after his successful completion of the TD Beach to Beacon 10K in just over an hour.

Portland resident Peter Rozzi, left, congratulates his former science teacher, Ben Donaldson, of Casco Bay High School, after Donaldson’s successful completion Saturday of the TD Beach to Beacon 10K. Donaldson ran the course in just under an hour.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, left, congratulates fellow former Olympian Judi St. Hilaire, of Somerset, Massachusetts, at the finish line of the TD Beach to Beacon 10K. Nearly 30 years ago, Samuelson became the first woman to win an Olympic marathon during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California. She is also the founder of the annual Beach to Beacon race. St. Hilaire competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

More photos

Additional photos from the 17th annual TD Beach to Beacon 10K are online here.

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I’m a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I’m from a small town in NH no one’s ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.