CAPE ELIZABETH — The day started somber and gray, with 10 seconds of respectful silence to remember victims of the April 15 bomb blasts near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
It ended, for the first time in the 16-year history of the Beach to Beacon 10K road race, amid raindrops inside Fort Williams Park. Not for every finisher, mind you.
Men’s winner Micah Kogo of Kenya got wet at Pond Cove but beat the sprinkles to the break tape in 28 minutes, 3.2 seconds, his second victory in three years.
Women’s winner Joyce Chepkirui held off a surprising and determined Gemma Steel of Great Britain for a 12-second victory in 31:23.2.
The shower lasted only a few minutes, however, and although the crowds along the course and inside the fort seemed smaller this year, the mood was no less triumphant.
“There just seemed to be renewed energy here this year,” said the race founder, Joan Benoit Samuelson, the Olympic champion and Cape Elizabeth native.
“It’s always a great event but it just seemed like a lot of people were so happy to be here. I saw a lot of first-time runners, a lot of legacy runners (who have run all 16 Beach to Beacons) and a lot of families running together.”
Veazie native Riley Masters, who returned last week from his first professional track races in Europe without the racing gear emblazoned with his sponsor’s name, tugged at the MAINE on the Maine Track Club singlet he purchased for $20 at Friday’s prerace expo just before crossing the line as the Maine men’s champ in 30:19.3, good for 15th overall.
“Home-state pride,” Masters, 23, said of his gesture. “There’s a lot of pride for winning this.”
Erica Jesseman of Scarborough collapsed and sat on the grass for several minutes after a finishing sprint that wound up six-tenths of a second shy of a course record in the Maine women’s category.
Still, she won her first Beach to Beacon title in 34:17.6.
“I went out too hard,” said Jesseman, 24, “but I’m a young runner and I’m still proud of what I went out and accomplished. No one can complain off a (personal record). You’ve got to be happy and satisfied.”
That sentiment certainly prevailed among most of the runners pouring across the finish line on a day decidedly less than delightful for spectators.
“Although we like it to be sunny and picnic weather, it’s perfect racing conditions,” said Deena Kastor, the marathon bronze medalist in the 2004 Athens Games and the woman who lowered the American marathon record held for 18 years by Samuelson. “All the runners are definitely grateful for the cloud cover and cool breeze.”
Kastor, 40, shattered the women’s masters record by more than a minute, finishing seventh overall in 32:28. That time is also faster than the American women’s masters record of 32:50 run by Colleen De Reuck in 2004.
Two years ago, Kastor came to Cape Elizabeth with the intention of running but was waylaid by a 24-hour bug, and opted against competing with nothing in her stomach but a bland piece of toast. On Saturday, she marveled at her surroundings on a bluff above Casco Bay.
“This is hands-down the most beautiful finish line in the world and the greatest hospitality I’ve ever seen in any race,” she said. “And I’m old, so that’s saying a lot! I’ve been to a lot of races.”
Kastor’s was the second course record that fell. Earlier, South African native Krige Schabort trimmed the wheelchair mark by more than a minute in 21:53. Kogo and Chepkirui each received $10,000 from the total prize purse of $60,000. Masters and Jesseman each took home $1,000.
The race’s designated beneficiary, The Opportunity Alliance, received a check from the main sponsor, TD Bank, for $30,000.
The sun finally began to break through during the awards ceremony on the top of a hill overlooking the lighthouse. Temperatures that began in the low 60s climbed barely to 70 by the time the last of the 6,244 finishers completed their journey.
“Everybody has a story,” Samuelson said, and as if on cue, a burly man with a three-digit bib number thrust out his hand.
“Year 16,” he said. “Wonderful race you have here.”
“Are you a legacy runner?” Samuelson asked. “Have you run all 16?”
“All 16 years,” he confirmed.
“Congratulations,” she said, beaming. “That’s awesome. That’s great.”
He returned the smile and continued moving forward, taking the first steps toward Year 17, his reply muffled but determined.
“Greatest race in Maine,” he said.