Running At 60, Beach To Beacon Founder Still Sets The Pace

By Glenn Jordan
Portland Press Herald, Maine

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) There’s no slowing down for Joan Benoit Samuelson. This will mark the fourth time that Samuelson who won the inaugural Olympic women’s marathon in the 1984 Los Angeles Games, will run the race she founded in 1998.


Deena Kastor, who broke the U.S. women’s marathon record formerly held by Joan Benoit Samuelson, is facing a deadline for the manuscript of her memoir on the power of positive thinking.

She was in New York City with a book editor earlier this week, but Saturday morning she’ll be on a quiet stretch of Route 77 alongside Samuelson behind the start line of the 20th edition of the TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race.

“You can’t say no to Joan,” Kastor said with a laugh Friday inside Fort Williams, after a press conference introducing much of the elite field expected to lead a throng of 6,500 runners from near Crescent Beach to the Portland Head Light.

“She explained the people that she’s run with in the five-year increments and I felt so honored that she chose me this year. I really look forward to our time together (Saturday).”

This will mark the fourth time Samuelson, the Cape Elizabeth native who won the inaugural Olympic women’s marathon in the 1984 Los Angeles Games, will run the race she founded in 1998. In 2002, she ran with a group of New York City firefighters.

In 2007, she ran with 1980 Boston Marathon champion Jacqueline Gareau. In 2012, she ran with fellow marathon greats Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter.

Rodgers will be in the field again, but Kastor — who placed seventh in the 2013 Beach to Beacon at age 40 and set an American 10K masters record of 32 minutes, 28 seconds — will run with the 60-year-old Samuelson. The world record at 10K for a woman 60 or older is 38:56.

Last month in Freeport at the L.L. Bean 10K, Samuelson finished within a minute, in 39:52.

Might a record be in the offing?

Elite runner Diane Nukuri receives a massage after a press conference at Fort Williams. Staff photo by Ben McCanna
“She doesn’t want that pressure,” said Kastor, the 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist, “but I told her I’m going to make it hard on her. I’m going to push her.”

A few thousand spectators may also contribute to a more rapid pace.

“I think we’ll get excited out there,” Kastor said. “She’s got that spirit in her that just never loses its fire.”

The title of Kastor’s book: Let Your Mind Run — A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory.

THE BENEFICIARY of this year’s Beach to Beacon is Let’s Go!, a program that started in 2004 as a way for doctors to have respectful conversations about healthy eating and active living.

Dr. Tory Rogers, who understood the perils and prevalence of obesity, helped come up with a mnemonic — 5-2-1-0 — that represents daily recommendations of five servings of fruits and vegetables, no more than two hours of recreational screen time, one hour of physical activity and zero sugary drinks.

Those numbers, in white over a background of red, orange, green and blue blocks, now adorn pediatrician’s offices, school cafeterias, childcare sites and community centers in Maine and 43 other states.

“We thought we’d use it for a couple years,” Rogers said. “It just went viral.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign adopted the message. Rogers said the $30,000 grant from the TD Charitable Foundation will help expand programming.

“We provide all the resources for free, for anybody in Maine,” she said. “It’s little things. Instead of sugary drinks in childcare you have water. You don’t really need juice. Instead of having a pizza party for a reward for a school, you can go use the gym or have an extra recess. Every little change you make helps build those healthy habits for kids, and if they have healthy habits as kids, they’ll have healthy habits as adults.”

As Rogers described data showing the program’s success is reducing obesity in Maine at a rate greater than nationally, Larry Wold, the Maine president of TD Bank, said, “If you wonder if it’s working, show up at a kid’s birthday party with soda. The parents look at you like, what’s the matter with you?”

DEFENDING CHAMPION Ben True grew up in North Yarmouth and his parents now live in Freeport, but he and his wife, Sarah, are staying with a host family in Cape Elizabeth.

In 2014, when True was third, he stayed in Freeport and drove to Cape Elizabeth for a Friday morning press conference, a Friday night kids’ race, and the Saturday morning main event.

Mary Keitany, who was the top woman finisher in last year’s TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race, waves to . the small crowd after being introduced at a press conference with elite runners Friday.

“It’s 55 minutes to the start,” he said. “It was just way too much time in the car.”

Last year he stayed in Cape Elizabeth and became the first American to win the race.

“It’s much easier staying in Cape Elizabeth,” he said.

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