They started running for different reasons, and have pursued it with different levels of intensity and dedication.

On Saturday, however, Jeff and Kerry Mansir, a married couple living in Gardiner, will find themselves facing the same challenge. The Mansirs will be taking on the Beach to Beacon race for the first time, finally tackling the 10K (6.2 miles) course that has brought Olympians and international marathon champions and annually brings throngs of local runners and fans to the southern Maine shoreline.

Both runners are excited to begin the celebrated race, which begins at Crescent Beach State Park and ends at the Portland Head Light, both in Cape Elizabeth, where Kerry’s mother lives.

“I’m pretty sure it’ll be the biggest race that she’s ever been in before, and it’s probably the biggest race that I’ve been in before, in terms of the amount of people,” Jeff said. “I’m looking forward to the experience of a big race like that, which we don’t have a lot of in Maine.”

Their approaches to the sport, however, are totally different. Jeff is a serious runner, running a marathon per year in addition to half marathons and 10Ks. He also trains and competes often as part of a running group also consisting of fellow marathoners Ward and Wade Boudreau, Steve Howe and Johanna Stickney.

“We kind of push each other a little bit, like during January and February when you don’t want to run at all,” Jeff said. “If you know people are going to be there at 7 o’clock and will notice that you’re not there, sometimes that’s all it takes to get out the door.”

Jeff doesn’t usually need the motivation. He had to back off, however, when plantar fasciitis ruled out a marathon for this year, and with his schedule now freed up with the training obligations lifted, the Beach to Beacon finally became a possibility.

“Usually I’m training for a marathon, so it doesn’t really fit in,” he said. “Last year, being the only one in the group that didn’t do the race, I felt like I kind of missed out, and needed to experience it.”

It’s a different story with a similar ending for Kerry. An admittedly more casual runner than her husband, she has competed in four half-marathons but had backed off running in recent years, and looked to the Beach to Beacon as the perfect opportunity to pick up where she left off.

“I just sort of needed a motivation to make me get out there and run more,” she said. “(I was) just sort of feeling motivated by (the running group) that this is going to be a big event and we were all doing it and we could all kind of share something in common that we all have. … That’s kind of how I decided ‘OK, I’m going to sign up for this, and I’ve got to train for it.'”

A minister, Kerry rarely runs with her husband, preferring to set her own pace rather than try to match Jeff’s faster, more strenuous clip.

“I’m not as passionate about it as he is,” she said. “I use it as a time to think. … Sometimes I start thinking about my sermons when I’m running. Much more than it being about competition and speed, it’s just sort of my time. This is the thing that’s just for me.”

Still, as the race has approached, Kerry has seen a competitiveness and drive kick in.

“I’ve made sure that I’m running more than six miles. I definitely want to be able to run as hard as I personally can,” she said. “I’m not super concerned about time, but I’ve been watching my time and trying to push just a little bit harder.”

“She’s actually been much more diligent about running and getting her miles in over the past couple of weeks than I have been,” Jeff said. “If anybody’s going to set a PR, it’s going to be her, not me.”

Jeff also had to transition from the marathon training regimen, where the goal is endurance, to 10K training, where the goal is speed.

“I have been trying the past couple of weeks to do more quicker-paced running,” he said. “I’m looking to be competitive. I know it probably won’t be my fastest 10K time, but I’m definitely looking to run it hard and enjoy the experience.”

That last part should be a given. With masses of spectators and fellow runners, the Beach to Beacon feels as much like a festival as a race, and with a party with family and friends slated for after the event, the Mansirs will be able to bask in a moment that, as Jeff said, has been a long time coming.

“It is kind of fun having a group of people where we’re all going to be there,” Jeff said. “I think between Kerry and I and the running group, it’s definitely something that I would see myself doing every year going forward.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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