2013-08-02 / Front Page

Runners ready for Beach to Beacon

A field of 6,000 expected for 2013 edition of the road race
By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH – In its 16th year, the TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race continues to unite families and inspire runners of all ages and abilities.

Founded by Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won the first-ever women’s marathon in the 1984 Olympics, the race attracts runners from around the world and is celebrated like a holiday by locals.

There will be 6,000 participants in this year’s race on Saturday, Aug. 3.

For some, running along the same race as Olympians and champions can be personally motivating.

“The idea of being in the same race as true athletes like the Kenyans was enticing, even though I knew that they would finish the course in less than half the time it would take me,” said Cheri Poulin, 43 of Kennebunk.

“It is kind of like if I were to play at Boston Garden and drain a three pointer where Larry Bird did. It is pretty cool. Where else do you get to do that?” said Patrick Reagan, 42, of Scarborough.

George Hunter, 59, is from Cape Elizabeth but now lives in Michigan. Hunter travels back to run the Beach to Beacon every year as a feat of personal triumph.

“(I run) mostly, because I can. Despite my bad knees and a bout with cancer, I still can.”

Lois Martin, 63, of South Portland, is a personal trainer for beginning runners, and uses the Beach to Beacon 10K as a “graduation from their 5K experience.”

Stephen Pate, 46, of Old Orchard Beach will run the race for his fifth year. His first run was a “victory run” for losing 50 pounds.

“I had gone from 238 down to 188 and it was always my focus to lose enough weight to run the B2B,” Pate said.

A four-time winner of the 80-plus division, Terri Morris, 84, travels from Venice, Fla., to race with her daughter.

“At my age, I do the best I can to get the best time, to get to the finish line without an injury … it’s fun, but a pretty big challenge,” Morris said. “I’m hoping to match my time from last year of 1:18.”

Bob Cyr, 57 of Biddeford, said he didn’t start actively running until later in his life.

“I could barely make it up a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing … I was a work in progress changing my lifestyle through nutrition and exercise,” Cyr said.

In 2003, Hannaford started a program to train first-time runners in preparation for the Beach to Beacon. Cyr, who has worked 30 years for the company’s trucking department, was invited to participate as an official trainer.

“I never dreamed that at this stage of my life I would be in better shape than I was in my 30s and 40s,” Cyr said.

One year, Cyr said he had the pleasure of meeting several of the elite Kenyan runners and saw one of them after the race who seemed a bit down.

“So, how did you do?” Cyr asked him, and the runner said he came in eighth place.

Cyr told him, “Wow. I was right behind you.”

“He looked up at me as he stood about 4 foot nothing, weighing all about 100 pounds at best, and here I am 6 feet, about 195 pounds,” Cyr said. “I didn’t look anything like a runner. I could tell in his eyes he was not only upset but in total disbelief. I smiled at him and put my arms around him and said ‘perhaps there may have been 2,000 or so others between us, but I was still behind you.’ He smiled back.”

Some runners are attracted to the charitable nature of the event. Genevieve Straight, 34, of Scarborough, said she decided to run for the first time this year when she learned that this year’s race would benefit the Opportunity Alliance. “They have a wonderful mission and I’m excited to be able to give back to an organization that gives back to Maine communities,” Straight said.

The organization’s mission is to strengthen communities, and the group provides services to address a variety of needs such as mental illness and substance abuse treatment, homelessness prevention, child care and heating assistance.

Patty Blankenship, 47, of Scarborough, is running the Beach to Beacon for her third time and said this year will be special because five days after the race, she will donate a kidney to her co-worker’s son.

“Running has helped me to believe that anything is possible, even donating a kidney,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship, who will run with the kidney recipient’s sister, said, “I used to be an anti-runner and now my big thing is ‘When can I run after I donate?’”

A recent grad from Cape Elizabeth High School, 18-year-old Christina Kouros, is a wheelchair racer competing in her third Beach to Beacon. Kouros said U.S. Paralympian Jacqui Kapinowski will be at this year’s race. Kouros met Kapinowski at a similar race where Kapinowski had given her Paralympic pins to encourage her.

Kouros said it takes a lot of endurance to wheelchair race and it can take years to practice and master the technique.

“You don’t grab the wheel actually,” Kouros said. “You have a glove and you try to punch it to keep the wheel moving, and you have to stay low.”

Kouros said she is going to race from a kneeling position this year, so she can stay low and make time. While rolling downhill is not as hard as running, Kouros said wheelchair racers make up for it with the uphill stretches. In her second year, she said she almost went backwards on the final uphill stretch to the finish line.

“Some people can’t do it, it takes a lot of endurance,” Koulos said.

Carrie McCusker, 43, of Cape Elizabeth, has run every Beach to Beacon race. McCusker said she remembers the final hill in the first year.

“We were not clear on where the finish line was,” McCusker said. “Most of my running buddies and I ran straight into the park on that straight section and figured that would be the end. I remember race day, when we entered the park and learned we had to go up that steep hill and then around what felt like an endless stretch to finally get to the finish.”

Darryl Wilkinson, 19, of South Portland, said, “What really draws me to the Beach to Beacon is the vast field of talented runners and the rush I get from all of the spectators watching the race.”

Wilkinson is running for his fourth year in a row and now competes for the University of Maine cross-country and track teams.

Suzanne Woodward, 53, of South Portland, said she is running for Steve, a friend who died suddenly in February.

“Steve was always so much fun at the race,” Woodward said. “One year when he ran it with his daughter, she needed to rest, so he took her into The Good Table for a stack of pancakes right in the middle of the race … he will be missed something fierce.”

Ken Rickert, 46, of Kennebunk, picked up running last year after a 30- year hiatus, with the goal of running the Beach to Beacon 10K this year. It will be his first 10K.

A 43-year-old woman from Cape Elizabeth, who is six months pregnant, Bobbie Kallner, said she is “determined to complete the run” this year.

Chris Cherry, 55, of Kennebunk, said “I especially like the Beach to Beacon 10K because of the crowd support. There are very few stretches along the route that there isn’t someone clapping, ringing a cowbell, playing music or shouting encouragement.”

Jeanne Hackett, 54, of Scarborough, who has run the race since its inception said the race brings world class runners up close and personal to locals.

“One can be sitting on the grass, relaxing and enjoying the (awards) ceremony only to discover that an incredibly talented, Olympic medal winner is sitting right there next to you on the grass,” said Hackett. “This event is inclusive and humble, in this way.”

Lori Lareau, 46, of Saco, said, “If I had to explain the race in one word, it would be ‘exhilarating.’ The adrenaline rush at the end is amazing. It feels so good to be a part of such a large event that is known world-wide.“

Regardless of their reasons, everyone agrees that the Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race is an event that rallies personal motivation and community pride, and that Olympian Samuelson inspires thousands of people each year.

TD Beach to Beacon 10K

• 8 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 3
• Cape Elizabeth
• Starting line: Crescent Beach
• Finish line: Portland Head Light

• Information: Flaggers will direct cars off of Route 77 toward Sprague Fields designated parking. The 6.2- mile route ends at Portland Head Light. There are numerous road closures for the event. For more information, visit www.beach2beacon.org .

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