TD Beach to Beacon 10K: First time’s the charm

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Legacy and elite runners get a lot of attention at the annual TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race.

At the other end of the spectrum are first-time racers and casual runners – the people who usually stay in the middle of the pack or bring up the rear.

When Portland resident Shannon Jenkins runs the race for the first time Aug. 6, she’s not going to be concerned about her time when the race steps off at 8 a.m.

“I think I’m mostly just out there to experience it,” she said.

Olympic gold medalist and race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson said that’s the proper hope for first-timers.

“For the first-time (runner), I’d say just experience everything the race has to offer,” Samuelson said. “The goal should be to complete the race in such a manner that the runner wants to return.”

There are just over 100 legacy runners – people who have the run Beach to Beacon every year since it was founded 19 years ago. It’s unknown how many of the approximately 6,000 people running this year will be first-timers, because race organizers said they don’t collect that information.

Jenkins, 27, said she has wanted to run the race for several years.

“I never thought I’d have the chance to even make it into the lottery,” she said. “It’s a race I’ve been hearing about and wanting to do since I moved (to Maine) three years ago.”

Jenkins entered the race through her workplace, Opportunity Alliance. The organization bought several bibs and people who wanted one had to raise $250 in donations. Jenkins was quick to claim one.

Having attended the race last year as a spectator, Jenkins said she’s excited to run this year because of “the size of it and the history of it.” She said she enjoys running and has run 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons.

Jenkins often runs in Portland on the Eastern Prom and around Back Cove, and is also part of the Old Port Pub Run. The group runs in the Old Port every Thursday evening and then meets at Liquid Riot on Commercial Street for refreshments.

Samuelson said it’s good for first-time Beach to Beacon runners to have at least some experience.

“We try to attract runners of all abilities, but I don’t think people who never run should try it,” she said.

Attracting participants of varying skill levels is important to Samuelson.

“My vision is that it’s a race for all people,” she said. “It’s an inclusive race.”

Jenkins said running with professional athletes excites her.

“I think it’s really neat that everyone is a part of it and running the same course as (the) elites,” she said.

Elite runners are known for dedicated, nearly constant training, but Jenkins said that’s not her approach.

“I run a fair bit, but I haven’t been doing any extra training,” she said.

She said she’s also not going to practice running the course before the race. The 6.2-mile course starts near the entrance to Crescent Beach on Route 77 and ends at Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park.

“I think there’s something neat about running it for the first time that day,” Jenkins said.

Samuelson agreed.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to run the course, but it might be a good idea to drive it or cycle it to get a lay of the land,” she said, adding it’s a good idea to know where hills or curves are.

“People should know it’s a narrow course and that there will be a lot of other people running with them,” she said.

Other tips from the Olympian, and Cape Elizabeth native, include staying hydrated and monitoring the pace. She said less-experienced runners may try to run too fast at the beginning of the race, but everyone should “have faith in your training and save something for the end.”

The end, after all, is the best part of the race, Samuelson said, because of the view of the ocean and the lighthouse.

“The panoramic views people are able to take in are pretty special,” she said. “I think for those runners who don’t view the race course beforehand, it’s pretty magnificent.”

Although the race is competitive, Samuelson said she hopes first-time racers enjoy themselves and have some fun.

“The ultimate goal for first-time Beach to Beacon runners is to have a positive experience and enjoy the pomp and circumstance that comes with the event,” she said.

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

Portland resident Shannon Jenkins will be a first-time participant in this year’s annual TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race Aug. 6 in Cape Elizabeth.

TD Beach to Beacon 10K founder, and Olympic gold medalist, Joan Benoit Samuelson: “The goal should be to complete the race in such a manner that the runner wants to return.”

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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.