Someone up there must really like her, because Joanie's Race, the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K, has had 13 years of pretty spectacular weather. Since 1998, the first Saturday in August has dawned with more or less perfect summer road racing conditions. Sure one year it rained early in the morning, but the downpour miraculously ceased a few minutes before the starting gun went off. And another year, the humidity was a bit of an issue, but nothing too extreme. Overall, the weather has cooperated, as if by an edict by founder and Olympic gold medal winner Joan Benoit Samuelson.
Joan Benoit Samuelson winner of the first Olympic gold medal in the women's marathon. LA, 1984.
And since 1998, Joanie's home town of Cape Elizabeth, Maine has rallied around the race and its founder and woven it into the DNA of this small coastal Maine town. In the intervening years lifelong bonds of friendship have been formed between Cape families and some of the world's fastest athletes. Five-time Beach to Beacon women's champion, Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, has stayed with the DeSena family every year she has come to run. They have watched each other's children grown up, kept in touch throughout the year, and maintained a bond that cannot be broken by time or distance.
There is palpable excitement around this event, which truly becomes a family affair, starting in the late spring, when more and more runners start showing up along the race course on training runs. Of the 6500+ registered participants this year, more than 800 were residents of this town, which has a population of just over 9,000.
Khalid Kannouchi -- former marathon world record holder, 1999 Beach to Beacon men's winner, and honorary citizen of Cape Elizabeth -- and I catch up on old times.
The invited athletes, from countries like Kenya, Russia, Japan, Ethiopia, Australia, and the United Kingdom, stay in town with host families, and their stay is packed with race-related activities. On Thursday evening, I hold a welcome party for the host families and their athletes, the race organizing committee and out-of-town guests. It's a casual affair that serves as a time for everyone to adjust to the place and the people and relax before the activities get too frenetic.
The DMSE crew and Joanie...champions one and all!
Joanie and Expo coordinator Marji Adams take a quick breather at the Welcome party.
On Friday of race weekend, a press conference is held at the Inn by the Sea to introduce all the invited athletes to the media and to the town. Old friends are welcomed back and newcomers are greeted enthusiastically, like long-lost relatives.
In 12 years of enviable race-day weather, the 2010 version was the best ever. The summer-long humidity disappeared, the temps were cool and the skies were slightly overcast. Gebre Gebremariam led a tight men's pack to victory, finishing in 27:40, off the course record of 27:38. Kenyan Lineth Chepkurui led the women for the entire race and shattered the women's course record of 31:25, with a time of 30:59, making her the first woman to run a sub 31 minute 10K on Maine soil.
Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya shatters the women's course record.
The cherry on top of the race weekend sundae is the post-race lobster bake, with great food, fast friends and lots of music...plus a gorgeous ocean view. My colleagues were there from Cabot Creamery, one of the event sponsors, serving different flavors of The World's Best Cheddar. If the international representation around the Cabot table was any indication, it seems that cheese, like music has a universal language all its own.