CAPE ELIZABETH — Dottie Gray has run the TD Beach to Beacon 10K many times. Karen Rand McWatters has never run it.

But Saturday, the two will start the 18th annual race together, one hour before thousands of other runners.

Race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson made that announcement Friday morning at the race’s press conference.

Gray is 90. McWatters is a survivor of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, having lost the lower portion of her left leg. Race director Dave McGillivray said both will be accompanied on the course when they begin at 7 a.m.

This is the first time race officials have ever allowed anyone to start early. Samuelson said this was a special honor for both women.

This will be the 15th Beach to Beacon for Gray, who travels from her home in Kirkwood, Missouri. She’s accompanied in the race by family members. Last year she finished with a net time of 1:56:34 and was presented the Johnny Kelley Award as the oldest finisher.

“We’ve been told this will be Dottie’s last 10K,” said Samuelson. “And obviously it’s an exceptional and wonderful opportunity for the race and for Karen to be able to participate.”

McWatters, formerly of Westbrook, appeared as the honorary starter of the Beach to Beacon in 2013. She was so impressed with the race that she came back last year to work as a volunteer, working in the elite massage tent. She also told Samuelson that she wanted to walk the course one day.

“Karen really tells the story of what this event is about,” said Samuelson, choking up during the press conference.

McGillivray said the course will be set up earlier for the two of them. The two will receive a verbal command to start the race.

“It’s got to be coordinated,” he said. “It’s a special experience.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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