Back in the glory days of my high school running career, the Beach to Beacon 10K was a staple for me and my family.
We would always make it the last mini-vacation of the summer before high school cross country practices commenced, with carbo-loading dinners and trips to the Old Port and Funtown/Splashtown always on the agenda. It was also the last road race on my summer training agenda, since it was frowned upon to do such events when practices got under way.
Then, in 2004 I started covering road racing for this newspaper, which included the 6.2-mile journey from Crescent Beach State Park to the Portland Head Light, the country’s most photographed lighthouse. A lot of races are possible to compete in and cover simultaneously, but not this one.
Nine years, two half marathons and three BodyPump trainings later, I’ll be running in the race that Joan Benoit Samuelson founded 15 years ago. Unlike my high school days, the race is much more popular and it’s tough to procure one of the 6,000 bib numbers.
Thankfully, I managed to win one in the lottery, and even though I haven’t run a 10K in three years – my personal best at the distance is 37 minutes – I’m looking forward to trading in my press credentials for a pair of sneakers.
For those of you who may not know, the Beach to Beacon is the crown jewel of road racing in Maine. Harriers from all over the world are attracted to this magnificent event, which grows year after year. It has showcased past Olympic and world champions, some of the best runners in the country, and of course, Maine’s best.
This year will be no different, with eleven men in the field who have broken 28 minutes for the 10K distance in their careers. It’s very possible you could see the course record of 27:28 go down.
The race also serves as the unofficial state championship of road racing. I’ve had the pleasure to interview the likes of Louie Luchini and Ben True, the latter of which narrowly missed out on qualifying for the London games in the 5K, and of course, the aforementioned Joan Benoit, a pioneer for women’s running in Maine. No one could imagine the impact she would have on her home state, and the United States of America when she circled the track at the Los Angeles Coliseum en route to a gold medal in the first Olympic marathon for women in 1984.
Every five years, Samuelson toes the line in the race, with 2002 the year that sticks out to me, as she ran alongside a New York City firefighter less than a year after the September 11 tragedy. Many folks return to this race because of her. Samuelson and race management, led by race director Dave McGillivray, who fulfills the same duties for the Boston Marathon every spring, and President Dave Weatherbie, do a fantastic job on a yearly basis in running this event.
Having gotten runs in sporadically over the summer, it’s very doubtful I’ll eclipse my personal best for the 10K distance this weekend. But like the many family outings that transpired around this race in my teenage years, the 2012 Beach to Beacon will be another activity in a weekend excursion with friends that includes Saturday night’s Mumford and Sons concert in Portland.