By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
July 31, 2014
On Saturday, the 17th annual TD Beach to Beacon 10-K will be held in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, bringing together Olympic medalists, World Championships competitors, and a recent Commonwealth Games champion. The race, founded by inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, runs along the picturesque Atlantic Ocean coastline before finishing at Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park.
Ahead of Saturday’s race, we detail six storylines to watch for.
–Defending Champions Return: Both of last year’s victors, Kenyans Micah Kogo and Joyce Chepkirui, return to Cape Elizabeth each seeking to become the first athlete to retain their title since fellow Edward Muge did so in 2008/2009. Kogo aims to become only the second male ever to claim three first place finishes at the event, having won in 2011 and 2013. A year ago, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000m broke away from Kenya’s Silas Kipruto, going on to win in 28:03. This will only be Kogo’s third race of this year, as the 28-year-old finished sixth at February’s RAK Half-Marathon (59:49) and 17th at April’s Boston Marathon (2:17:12).
Chepkirui, on the other hand, is riding a hot streak this summer, having claimed gold on Tuesday at the Commonwealth Games 10,000m in 32:09.35. Using a finely timed kick, the 25-year-old defeated Florence Kiplagat and Emily Chebet; Chebet is also one to watch come Saturday’s race.
Chepkirui has won three consecutive road races on American soil: last year’s TD Beach to Beacon contest in 31:23.2, the 2013 New Balance Falmouth Road Race in 36:42.8, and this year’s UAE Healthy Kidney 10-K in New York, where she set an event record of 31:17.
The only other woman in history to claim at least two Beach to Beacon titles was the great Catherine Ndereba, a force on the roads of Maine between 1998 and 2003. In a six-year span, Ndereba won five times and set three event records.
–Shalane Flanagan Aiming For First American Win: No American, male or female, has ever claimed the top spot at the TD Beach to Beacon 10-K. Shalane Flanagan will try to change that, competing in the race for the first time since her days at Marblehead (Mass.) High School. Earlier this week, Flanagan made public her plans to try and run under Deena Kastor’s American record of 2:19:36 at the BMW Berlin Marathon on September 28. As part of her tune-up plans for Berlin, Flanagan will toe the line in the pine tree state gunning for a podium finish.
Since taking seventh in 2:22:02 at the Boston Marathon on April 21 –the fastest performance ever by an American on the famed course– Flanagan has raced four times. Most recently, she won the Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicago Half-Marathon on July 20 in 1:09:45. Flanagan’s personal best for 10-K stands at 32:20, set in 2012.
Of note, fellow Americans Desiree Linden and Jordan Hasay will also be racing. Linden was a teammate of Flanagan at the 2012 Olympic Marathon in London, while the Nike Oregon Project’s Hasay was a late addition to the elite field.
–Ben True Competing On Home Soil: Ben True will have a home-field advantage of sorts, racing 16 miles south of where he grew up in North Yarmouth, Maine. True has competed well both on the track and roads this year, setting personal bests of 13:02.74 for 5000m, 13:26 for 5-K, and 43:04 for 15-K, an indication that a fast 10-K time may be in the cards.
The last two times True ran this race he claimed top American honors. In 2010, the Dartmouth graduate placed 12th in 29:01.6, while in 2009 he was tenth in 29:10.3. True will likely need to run much faster than his current personal best of 28:28 to earn a spot on the podium, something his 2014 racing form shows he is capable of.
–The Return of Meb: Last year, Meb Keflezighi tucked himself into the lead pack and challenged eventual winner Micah Kogo through four miles, gritting out a tough fifth place finish in 28:37.2. Since then, the father of three became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon since Greg Meyer did so in 1983.
Keflezighi, 39, has made the most of his post-Boston Marathon tour, racing with the masses at events like the AJC Peachtree Road Race and Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half-Marathon. In last week’s Quad-City Times Bix 7 Miler (the USA 7 mile championships), Keflezighi finished 12th in 34:17, nearly 50 seconds behind winner Sean Quigley (33:28). Today it was announced he will be racing the TCS New York City Marathon next November; he won that race in 2009.
It will be interesting to see what kind of race strategy the three-time Olympian uses Saturday, whether he goes out with the leaders or chooses to run from behind.
–Kenyan Men Look To Extend Dominance: Of the 16 editions of this race, Kenyan men have taken home the top spot a whopping 13 times. In addition to the aforementioned Kogo, the East African nation boasts a notable field in this year’s contest, including 2012 champion Stanley Biwott and former marathon world record holder Patrick Makau.
Both Biwott, 28, and Makau, 29, are mysteries coming into the race, having not competed in a long period of time. According to the Race Results Weekly statistics database, Biwott has not raced since placing second at April’s Virgin Money London Marathon in 2:04:55, while Makau’s last finish came at the Hapalua Half-Marathon in Hawaii (also in April), where he ran 1:08:42. Before that, Makau registered a disappointing eleventh place showing at the 2013 Virgin Money London Marathon (2:14:10), then scratched from September’s BMW Berlin Marathon.
Bedan Karoki, fifth at the 2012 Olympic Games 10,000m, and Emmanuel Bett, who timed 27:21.61 on the track this year, are also entered.
Sam Chelanga, a native of Kenya who has lived and trained in the United States for the better half of a decade, is back in Cape Elizabeth after finishing tenth in 2012. He lives in nearby New Hampshire.
–Steel Back On American Soil: Among the leading international women to return is Great Britain’s Gemma Steel, runner-up at last year’s race. Steel, 28, always seems to bring a little extra when racing on American soil. In her last five races in the United States, Steel has finished second twice (2013 TD Beach to Beacon 10-K and 2013 New Balance Falmouth Road Race) and third twice (2014 and 2013 NYRR Oakley Mini 10-K). Her only blemish came in March when she did not finish the NYC Half due to a calf injury.
Appearing to be healthy now, Steel won the Bupa Great North 10-K on July 13 in 32:45.
–Record Runs: Course records for the TD Beach to Beacon 10-K are 27:28 for men (Gilbert Okari, 2003) and 30:59.4 for women (Lineth Chepkurui, 2010). Last year, a race record of 6246 finishers made their way past Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park. Race Results Weekly will be on hand to provide pre-race and race-day coverage from Cape Elizabeth starting Friday.
RRW: Six Storylines At The 2014 TD Beach To Beacon 10K
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom