Bob Dunfey, in his first year as race director of the Maine Marathon, decided to open up the field a bit by offering no-cost entries to runners who meet rigorous time standards.

“Runners like being in the same event with other familiar names,” Dunfey said. “That’s one reason Beach to Beacon does so well. It’s kind of like a mini-Boston Marathon.”

The name Francis Muendo Maundu probably won’t be familiar to most of the roughly 3,400 runners entered in the marathon, half marathon or marathon relay, but the 39-year-old Kenyan who has been training and racing in Mexico for the past 10 months figures to be among the leaders when the pack takes off Sunday morning from Portland’s Back Cove.

Maundu won the inaugural Romanian Marathon in Bucharest with a 2:15 clocking in 2008 and twice broke 2:13 in Toronto. This year in Mexico he ran three marathons, the fastest a 2:23:53 performance in June. A month ago, he ran 2:27 in Mexico City, and he was at his home in Toluca, about 40 miles west of the capital, when three powerful earthquakes struck between Sept. 8 and 23.

“My house shook and I was scared and had to rush out very fast,” Maundu wrote in an email. “Things were falling from the table and the cars outside were swinging.”

Maundu said the Toluca area was not affected as much as Mexico City and other cities and towns closer to the epicenters. The death toll from the three quakes has risen to 437, with close to 6,000 people injured.

“It was sad and remains sad,” Maundu said, “but above all I pass my condolences to all who lost their loved ones in the calamity. I, too, wish a quick recovery to all the injured.”

Maundu said he plans to return to Kenya in December to be reunited with his wife and two children.

Another change in this year’s race is the restoration of a cash bonus for setting a course record: $500 for the marathon and $250 for the half.

Maine Marathon prize money is $1,000 for the first man and first woman, $500 for second and $250 for third. Dan Vassallo, a former Sea Dogs intern from Massachusetts who ran at Colby College, set the men’s standard of 2:21:12 in 2012. Two-time champion Emily LeVan, a former Bowdoin field hockey player now living in Vermont, set the women’s mark of 2:39:34 in 2004, and it hasn’t been seriously challenged since then.

Neither of the defending champions entered this year’s marathon. Spencer McElwain, a 28-year-old native of Caribou who ran at the University of Maine and now lives in Portland, is gearing up for the Philadelphia Marathon in November, so he signed up for the half marathon. Lauren Jackson of New Jersey was last year’s unexpected women’s winner as part of her quest to run marathons in all 50 states.

McElwain will be running the event for only the third time. In 2012, he won the half marathon.

“We’ll see how that streak goes,” said McElwain, noting that Falmouth native Jonny Wilson, now living in Arizona, is back to defend his title after setting a course record of 1:06:38 in last year’s race. Also in the field are McElwain’s training partner, Sam Seekins (2014 champ in the half and fourth in last year’s marathon), 2013 champ Moninda Marube of Auburn, and another Kenyan training in Mexico, Cosmas Kiplimo Letting, who ran his best half marathon (1:04:58) five years ago in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“Jonny would be the favorite,” McElwain said. “I haven’t really been in shape to compete with Moninda for a while, so I’m excited to run with him.”

The top women in the marathon appear to be Christine Hein of North Yarmouth and Tracy Guerrette, the former University of Maine basketball player from St. Agatha. Expected challengers for Maundu include two-time champ Evan Graves of Caribou, Bryan Morseman of New York, Nicholas Mangan of Minnesota, and last year’s runner-up, Taylor Days-Merrill of Massachusetts.

In the half, Rachel Schilkowsky of Rhode Island has a shot at the course record of 1:16:23 set by Cynthia Jerob of Auburn in 2012. Schilkowsky was within four seconds of that time at the Hyannis Half earlier this year. Local favorites include Sheri Piers and Mary Pardi of Falmouth and Erica Jesseman of Scarborough.

Dunfey said another change this year is that finishers will be funneled into the adjacent ballfield to meet with friends and family and partake of food and drink. One thing that won’t change is the race’s significant charitable contributions, with the Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness designated as chief beneficiary (usually about $50,000). Last year more than 50 nonprofits in Greater Portland shared in more than $210,000.

“This all-volunteer event raises a ton of money and supports the Maine nonprofits,” said Dunfey, who has run in the race 16 times, “not just because it’s local, but because it is a great event.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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