Joan Benoit SamuelsonThe Beach to Beacon 10 kilometer road race in Cape Elizabeth, Maine just gets stronger every year. The brain child of Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, the race follows the roads that Joanie used to run on while she first came into the sport. Back then, she used to stop and pretend to be smelling the flowers on the side of the road any time a car would come by because she was worried that somebody might think it was strange for a girl to be out running.

The first year of the Beach to Beacon saw 2,408 finishers, which jumped the race straight to being the largest road race in Maine. Right from that first race there has always been a very strong field of national, international and Maine runners, both male and female.

TD Bank Beach to Beacon logoIt is now 13 years later, and the race has grown so popular that for the past 3 years it has sold out almost immediately upon opening for registration months in advance, forcing a 3-tier registration system to be implemented that allowed local residents a head start on registering and a lottery for the final 1000 bibs that were reserved for those who couldn’t get in with the first come/first serve bibs. Even Joan’s husband, Scott Samuelson, was shut out of the race because he couldn’t register in time. This year there will be around 6,000 finishers total.

The race remains competitive for a variety of reasons. The race is directed by Dave McGillivray, the director of the Boston Marathon, so between him and Joan’s contacts they are able to invite a lot of big names and get them to show. It’s also conveniently scheduled a week before another big New England Race that brings in a strong elite field, the Falmouth Road Race in Massachusetts, which allows elite runners to schedule two races in one trip fairly easily. A $60,000 prize purse for the best runners also doesn’t hurt.

For 2010, the race up front is going to be very exciting.

Here are just a few of the top names in the men’s race, along with a subtle prediction on my part for how they are going to do:

  • Khalid Khannouchi – USA – former world and current American marathon record holder
  • Gebre Gebremariam – Ethiopia – ranked 14th in the world and just won the Peachtree Road Race
  • Martin Lel – Kenya – Olympian and one of the world’s top marathoners with multiple London and New York City wins
  • Ed Muge – Kenya – the defending Beach to Beacon champion
  • Boaz Cheboiywo – Kenya – last year’s runner up

The women’s race is probably going to be even more competitive than the men’s race, but I’m still willing to make predictions:

  • Catherine Ndereba – Kenya – also known as Catherine the Great, she has won the Beach to Beacon 5 times already
  • Lineth Chepkurui – Kenya – ranked 9th in the world and just won the Peachtree Road Race and has the world leading 10k time of 30:45 this year
  • Edna Kipligat – Kenya – just set a course record at the Boilermaker 15k
  • Irene Limika – Kenya – the defending Beach to Beacon champion
  • Ayalew Yimer Wude – Ethiopia – finished 4th in the 2007 Beach to Beacon after taking a bad fall during the race