Monday, August 8, 2011

Beach to Beacon: a Report from the Back of the Pack

photo courtesy of Bangor Daily News
I was lucky enough to be able to participate in the 14th annual running of the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10k down in Cape Elizabeth this past Saturday. For those of you who've never heard of it, Beach to Beacon is a world-class road race held here in Maine. It is surrounded with an an air of excitement and an amazing energy that leaves, at least, this humble back-of-the-packer feeling totally inspired every time.

photo courtesy of Maine Sunday Telegram
The race was started as a way for Joan Benoit Samuelson to give back to the running community that has supported her through her successful running career (which has happened to include a gold medal in the first women's Olympic marathon - not too shabby!), and that, it certainly does! The race organizers try to make the event as accessible to as many people as possible regardless of their running experience, including special consideration for locals. Samuelson has said, "I still hear stories from people who have never run a step, or people who are running their first Beach to Beacon, or how this event has changed their lives. And to me, that makes it sustainable. That makes it truly an event that transcends the elite runners and the everyday runners."  Ms. Samuelson takes an active and prominent role in the race, including congratulating racers as they cross the finish line, whether it be less than a half hour or more than an hour after the start.

photo by Kevin Morris
For me personally, the inclusiveness of the race is one of the many things that makes it such an amazing experience. Seriously, how often can a back-of-the-packer participate in a world-class event, just minutes away (well, before the start, at least!!) from world champion runners? Coupled with the palpable excitement amongst race volunteers, spectators and runners, this race can't be beat! I love seeing so many people, so excited to start running and to be out on the course. You see runners of all shapes and sizes, all ages, abilities and experience levels but all with the desire to be part of the magic. Their enthusiasm is contagious and, believe me, its not just the runners; the spectators are fabulous!

Some of my favorites from the crowd this year include:
*the 2 ladies who were near me through most of the race who were just having a great time with the race, laughing and joking with fellow runners and the crowd.

*the family with the fantastic posters with sayings like "Run Like You Stole Something" and "Sweat is Just Weakness Leaving Your Body" Heck (well, ok that wasn't what i was really thinking, but you know what I mean) yeah!!

*Around mile 4 as I was starting to slow down, the man who passed me wearing a hand-decorated t-shirt that read "In Memory of My Wife, Aimee". It gave me chills and definitely helped put my pain into perspective and keep on truckin' even though my body was saying "WTF?!"

photo courtesy of Portland Press Herald
*The "Shower of Power" (A garden hose spraying out onto the course to cool off the runners) somewhere around mile 2 or 3 - what a welcome relief in Saturday's humidity!

*The guy who passed me around mile 5 running IN a replica of a lighthouse (on wheels). Seriously!

*The amazing staff and army of volunteers. This is the most well organized and smoothly run event I have ever participated in.

*and meeting Dave, the guy in the Kashi commercials who is now running races across the country in hopes of inspiring others to get healthier, one step at a time.

While I may miss the excitement of seeing the blazing fast runners up at the front, there is a whole lot of spirit and fun happening in the back of the pack at this race. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else!

Previously on Mainely Running