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Top Runners in the World, New England and Maine Gather for Saturday’s TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon 10K

Date: 
07/28/2009 - 11:53

home_main_logo.pngCAPE ELIZABETH, Maine – The top road racers in Maine, New England and around the globe are set to gather again in Cape Elizabeth for the 12th running of the TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race on Saturday.

The elite athletes will share the picturesque coastal course with thousands of recreational runners who are cheered on by an enthusiastic throng of spectators. The atmosphere created confirms the reputation of the TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon as a world-class event with an appealing small-town charm.

This year’s field of 6,000 includes runners from 16 countries and 43 U.S. states.

More than $60,000 in prize money is at stake, including a $10,000 prize to the top man and woman. Also, a $2,500 bonus is available for an open course record and $500 for a course record in the Maine category, providing added incentive in a race that consistently ranks among the fastest and most competitive 10Ks in the world.

The race beneficiary this year is Maine Handicapped Skiing, a non-profit organization that promotes year-round education and training for Maine children with physical disabilities. Based in Newry, Maine, the organization provides more than 3,700 lessons free of charge in winter and summer with the help of more than 390 volunteers – making it the state’s largest year-round adaptive recreation program for children and adults with physical disabilities. For more information, visit www.skimhs.org.

TD Banknorth, through the TD Charitable Foundation, will provide a cash donation of $30,000, plus the organization will benefit from fundraising activities and publicity.

"The key to the success of the TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon for 12 years now has been the hard work of all involved, from the tireless volunteers to the dedicated runners to the welcoming Town of Cape Elizabeth to the talented race organizers," said Larry Wold, president of TD Banknorth Maine who will lace up his running shoes Saturday for his 12th TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon. "Hats off to everyone who makes this such a special event.”

Returning Champ Set to Defend in Talented Men’s Race; Women’s Race Wide Open

The men’s field includes the returning champ, the third-fastest marathoner ever and one of the hotter road racers on the circuit, plus the last-minute entry by a three-time Beach to Beacon champ. And even then, there are at least three other entrants who are legitimate threats.

“The top seven or eight men are as good a group as we’ve ever assembled for this race, and that’s saying a lot when you look at the history of this event,” said Larry Barthlow, the elite athlete coordinator.

Defending champ Ed Muge, who sprinted to victory in 2008 in 27:52, has been training in altitude in Kenya and will arrive in Maine with fresh legs. Still, he’ll have his work cut out of him.

James Kwambai of Kenya ran the third fastest marathon in history – 2:04:20 – in Rotterdam earlier this year in a thrilling duel with Duncan Kibet, the 2007 Beach to Beacon champ. Youngster Gashu Ibrahinm Jeilan of Ethiopia, a 2008 World Junior Champ at 10,000m with a personal best 27:02 on the track, finished third at the Peachtree 10K earlier this month. Kenyan Gilbert Okari knows the course well after winning the Beach to Beacon three straight years – 2003-2005.

Other favorites include Felix Limo of Kenya, the 2005 Chicago Marathon champ who remains among the best in the world; Boaz Cheboiywo of Kenya, with a personal best 27:46 who is intent on improving on a fifth-place finish last year; and Ridouane Harroufi of Morocco, who won the Utica Boilermaker 15K two weeks ago and also finished second at Peachtree. Ethiopia’s Dejene Berhanu, who finished fifth at 5000m at the 2004 Olympics, also will be in the mix.

“This field is deep and talented with a lot of fresh legs, and what’s interesting is we’ve got these strong marathoners together with some real blazers at the shorter distances,” Barthlow said. “It’s shaping up to be a real interesting race.”

On the woman’s side, the complexion of the race changed with news that defending champ Edith Masai withdrew due to visa issues. That leaves 21-year-old Kenyan Lineth Chepkurui as the race favorite, with a running legend and an Olympian on her heels.

Chepkurui is perhaps the hottest runner on the circuit right now, with five major wins so far this year, including the recent Peachtree 10K, where she clocked 31:31 – the fifth faster 10K in the world in 2009.

Another favorite is running legend Berhane Adere of Ethiopia, a former 10,000m world champion who’s 30:04 in 2003 set an African record and remains the sixth-fastest time ever recorded. She also has won the Chicago Marathon twice and the prestigious Dubai Marathon.

Mariya Konovalova of Russia finished fifth at 10,000m (30:35) at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and recently finished second at the Russian Championships with a 30:31. Volha Krautsova of Belarus in another contender who competed at 5000m in the 2008 Olympics. Kenyan Irina Limika, who was picked to represent Kenya in the marathon at the 2007 World Championships, also could contend.

“The women’s race is wide open,” Barthlow said. “It’s unfortunate that Edith ran into trouble getting here, but we’ve got some really strong runners, including a real legend in Berhane, who are going to put on a good, competitive show.”

(Unofficial) Maine Road Race Champions to be Crowned

The TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon is considered the jewel for Maine’s top road racers and the winner each year wears the unofficial crown as the Maine Road Racing Champion.

This year’s race is expected to have a strong favorite among the men – defending champ Ben True, 23, of North Yarmouth – and a two-woman duel featuring Sheri Piers, 38, of Falmouth and 2008 champ Kristin Barry, 35, of Scarborough, each with course records on their minds.

If there was any doubt, True and Piers shattered course records earlier this month at the Clam Festival 5-Miler, considered the final tune up to the Beach to Beacon. And Barry, who set the Beach to Beacon course record last year, appears fully recovered from an injury and ready to defend.

True dominated a strong field at the 2008 Beach to Beacon, besting the field by 47 seconds (31:02), even though he was treating the event as a training run. This year, he has indicated he will be in top form – witness the 23:27 at the Clam Festival – which puts Eric Giddings’ four-year-old course record (30:34) in serious jeopardy.

Other contenders on the men’s side include the four runners who finished behind True - Judson Cake, 31, of Bar Harbor (31:48); Jon Wilson, 21, of Falmouth (31:51); 2004 champ Ethan Hemphill, 37 (31:56); and 2006 champ Donny Drake, 24, of Portland (31:59). Twins Curtis and Nicholas Wheeler of Buxton, 23, also are running strong right now and could be in the hunt.

On the women’s side, Piers will be gunning for the crown – and lowering the course-record – after finishing second in 2008 (34:47) to training partner Barry, who set a new course record (34:37). With Barry back running strong, their fierce but friendly competition is expected to continue. Susannah Beck, 41, of Brunswick, the 2004 champ, also could be in the mix.

“If Ben and Sheri are healthy and run their races, they are the favorites and the course records are in danger,” said David Weatherbie, the race president. “But don’t count out Kristin Barry or any of the other strong and experienced Maine runners entered in this race who are capable of great things. There’s too much talent for anything to be set in stone.”

12th Year for “Special” Race

The TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon is more than a road race. It’s an event. And a special one at that. The gorgeous course, local hospitality, tireless volunteers, generous sponsors, seemingly flawless operation of the race and the involvement of founder and running icon Joan Benoit Samuelson, it all adds up to something truly special.

The event attracts more than 700 volunteers and brings out an extraordinary effort on the part of the town of Cape Elizabeth. TD Banknorth is the lead sponsor of the race founded by Joan Benoit Samuelson, the Olympic gold medalist and one of Maine’s most admired athletes.

The race director is Dave McGillivray, president of DMSE, Inc., a nationally recognized event management company. McGillivray also serves as the race director of the BAA Boston Marathon.

In addition to TD Banknorth, the title sponsor, other major corporate partners this year include Hannaford, Fairchild Semiconductor, Poland Spring, Northeast Delta Dental, Nike, MaineHealth and WCSH6. For additional info about the race, visit www.beach2beacon.org or call the race hotline at (888) 480-6940.

The wheelchair entrants begin at 7:55 a.m. at the start line on Route 77 near Crescent Beach State Park and the runners start at 8:05. The ocean-hugging course ends 6.2 miles later in Fort Williams Park at Portland Head, the most photographed lighthouse in the world.

Prize money of more than $60,000 is awarded to the runners, including $10,000 for the winner, $5,000 for the second place winner and cash prizes for the top 10 finishers. Other cash awards go to the top men and women master’s finishers, men and women M50 winners, men and women wheelchair entrants and men and women from Maine. Also, age category winners will receive L.L. Bean gift certificates. For more information about the race, go to www.beach2beacon.org.

About TD Banknorth and TD Bank

Following TD Bank Financial Group's acquisition of Commerce Bancorp Inc. on March 31, 2008, TD Banknorth and Commerce Bank merged on May 31, 2008, to become TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank. Today, TD Banknorth and TD Bank form one of the 15 largest commercial banks in the United States with more than $126 billion in assets, and provide customers with a full range of financial products and services at more than 1,000 convenient locations from Maine to Florida. TD Bank, N.A., is headquartered in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Portland, Maine. TD Banknorth and TD Bank are trade names of TD Bank, N.A. For more information, visit www.tdbanknorth.com and www.tdbank.com.

TD Banknorth and TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank, are members of TD Bank Financial Group of Toronto, Canada, a top 10 financial services company in North America and one of just three triple-AAA-rated banks on the New York Stock Exchange.

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