Gebremariam Defending Beach To Beacon Title

New York City Marathon champion Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia hopes to defend his title at the Beach to Beacon 10K in Maine. Photo: PhotoRun.net

New York City Marathon champion Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia hopes to defend his title at the Beach to Beacon 10K in Maine. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Olympic medalists Deena Kastor and Catherine Ndereba highlight the women’s field.

From: Running USA

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — The 2011 TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race will feature reigning champ Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia and two Olympic medalists, American marathon record holder Deena Kastor and Kenyan Catherine Ndereba, race officials announced.

The trio headline yet another deep and talented field of world-class athletes for the 14th edition of the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K (www.beach2beacon.org), set for this Saturday along the scenic coastline of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. The race was founded by Olympic champion Joan Benoit Samuelson, a Maine native and running icon.

For Deena Kastor, the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K marks the strategic next step in her return to competitive racing after giving birth to her first child in February. The 38-year-old is building up to the Olympic marathon trials in January, hoping to regain the form that made her the most decorated American distance runner over the past decade.

Kastor broke Samuelson’s long-held American marathon record in 2003 and won bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics. She also won the Chicago (2005) and London (2006) marathons, set an American record in the half marathon in 2006, and won the 2008 Olympic Trials. But a foot injury at the 2008 Beijing Olympics caused her to withdraw early in the race. Her goal is to again chase gold in London next year.

Kastor will find a familiar foe in Catherine Ndereba, 39, a Kenyan running legend and two-time Olympic marathon silver medalist (Beijing in 2008 and in Athens in 2004). In Athens she finished one place ahead of Kastor. Known as ‘Catherine the Great’, she is a four-time BAA Boston Marathon champ, two-time World Champ and former world-record holder. Ndereba won five of the first six TD Bank Beach to Beacons and is the former course record holder (31:33). Following a five-year absence, Ndereba returned to the race in 2010 and, rehabbing an injury, finished sixth.

“Catherine and Deena are legends in their sport who add something really special to our elite field,” said Larry Barthlow, the race’s elite athlete coordinator. “Many of the younger runners look up to them the same way they revere Joanie. And it’s neat to think of how they finished 2-3 at the 2004 Olympics and here they are together again in our race.”

But any quest for a top spot at the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K will likely need to go through Ethiopians Werknesh Kidane and Wude Ayalew.

Kidane, 29, a two-time Olympian, is a former World Cross Country champion and World Championship silver medalist on the track, where she has clocked 30:07 at 10,000m. The wife of defending men’s champ Gebremariam, she made her marathon debut at the 2011 Boston Marathon, finishing seventh.

Ayalew, 24, might be the most determined runner in the race. In 2010, she finished second to Lineth Chepkuri’s record setting performance (30:59). Her time of 31:07 also broke the record, and stands as the second fastest time ever on the 6.2-mile course.

In Ayalew’s only other TD Bank Beach to Beacon performance in 2007, she came in as a race favorite but got tangled with another runner early in the race, never recovered and finished a disappointing fourth.

On the men’s side, the speedy Gebre Gebremariam, known as GG, who is also the reigning NYC Marathon champ, will have his work cut out for him to repeat, and will likely need to improve on his 27:40 from 2010.

Two top Kenyans, Micah Kogo and Mike Kigen, were upset in their highly competitive national track championships recently and have decided to test their speed in Cape Elizabeth, Barthlow said.

That means the course record (27:28) is in jeopardy, he said. Kogo, who won silver at 10,000m in the 2008 Olympics, has recorded the fastest 10K so far in 2011 – 27:15 at the Parelloop 10K in Holland. Kigen finished second in that race with a 27:26.

Also, the three runners who finished right behind GG in 2010 are back – Kenyans Alan Kiprono (27:42), Wilson Chebet (27:45), and Stephen Kipkosgei-Kibet (27:51). The race also includes two runners who know what it’s like to break the tape in Fort Williams – former multiple champs and Kenyans Ed Muge (2008-09) and Gilbert Okari (2003-04-05), who set the existing course record in 2003. Also, another former champ, Kenyan James Koskei (2002), is back seeking his third consecutive master’s title.

Prize money for the winner of the men’s and women’s races is $10,000. In all, nearly $60,000 in prize money will be awarded to the top finishers and place winners in the various categories for men and women. A $2,500 bonus also is available for any runner who breaks an open course record.

The TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K is considered one of the gems on the U.S. road race circuit. The race begins near the Crescent Beach State Park entrance on Route 77 in Cape Elizabeth and ends 6.2 miles later in Fort Williams Park at the Portland Head Light, the most photographed lighthouse in America.

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