August 1, 2012

Someone who inspires her will run with race founder

First of four stories on notable people in and behind the Beach to Beacon.

By Glenn Jordan
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH - Once again, it's time for Joan Benoit Samuelson to run the streets of her youth.

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Joan Benoit Samuelson will run the Beach to Beacon on Saturday, ending at Portland Head Light, behind her. It will be the third time the Olympic gold medalist has run the 10-kilometer race she founded 15 years ago.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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As she did five and 10 years ago, the founder of the Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race will join the field Saturday and make her way from near Crescent Beach to a grassy field near the Portland Head Light.

Samuelson has run the race at five-year intervals and each time has been joined by a running partner she considers inspirational.

"Hard to believe it's 15 years," she said Tuesday morning at a picnic table near the lighthouse as workers erected tents in preparation for the weekend's activities. "I don't know where they've gone so quickly.

The first time Samuelson ran her hometown race was 2002, and she did so alongside John Gleason, one of four New York City firefighters and one New York police officer invited to run as a tribute to their heroism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"That was a very moving run for me," Samuelson said Tuesday. "The fact that they wanted to be here as much as we wanted to include them was very special.

"I think it was part of the healing process. When I was able to run with the firefighters and see the joy that this event brought to them, and passing under that flag (draped from extended firetruck ladders on either side of Route 77) at the town hall, that had huge meaning."

Samuelson said another meaningful moment came Monday night at the Olympic Games in London, where Colorado high schooler Missy Franklin won a gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke after saying in an interview that she was thinking about the tragic shooting in Aurora and hoping to bring some joy to the community where she attends school.

"Which she did," Samuelson said, "with an amazing effort."

The second time Samuelson ran Beach to Beacon was 2007 and she did so alongside Canadian Jacqueline Gareau, winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon, notable for the disqualification of Rosie Ruiz, originally lauded as the first woman to finish but later revealed as a fraud who failed to run the entire course.

"Jacqueline's been honored many times since," Samuelson said, "but to be able to run through this course with her and knowing how much she and her husband enjoyed this state, and how many summers they've spent in Old Orchard, that was a celebration of friendship and sport."

As for her running partner on Saturday, Samuelson wouldn't say.

"You'll just have to wait and see," she said. "All I'll say is we all inspire each other. You can take whatever you want from that."

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH


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