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

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 Lighthouse.

“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.

“It’s been a great run thanks to our leadership and (race director) Dave McGillivray and (race president) Dave Weatherbie and an incredible organizing committee and wonderfully generous sponsors and a stalwart volunteer corps. It’s because of these people and these businesses and corporations — not to mention the invited athletes who come to join us — that we’ve been as successful as we’ve been over the history of the race.”

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 in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“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.

“People can rally after tragedy and loss. Out of sadness can come joy. The sadness is never forgotten, but life goes on, and life can be good in many ways again.”

Samuelson said another reminder 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.”

 

Glenn Jordan — 791-6425

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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