CAPE ELIZABETH — At 5:37 a.m. Friday, Nancy Gunn was awakened by the sound of her dog barking. Someone was knocking at her door.

“I was in a daze,” said Gunn, whose family long has hosted runners for the TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race.

Her early-morning visitor was a representative of Clearidium, an anti-doping test provider. The visitor was looking for Tish Jones, a 33-year-old British runner who lives in South Africa but has been training in Colorado.

But due to a last-minute host swap, Jones was staying across town with another family. Aisling Cuffe, a 25-year-old Stanford graduate, was sleeping at Gunn’s house.

“I feel really bad for my host,” Cuffe said. “She got a taste of being woken up (for drug testing). I heard the knocking but I just went back to sleep.”

For the first time in its 22-year history, the Beach to Beacon has hired drug testers, joining a growing trend of road races trying to prevent dopers from making off with prize money. Increasingly, world-class runners can expect to be tested not only after they win or place well in a race, but randomly at other times.

The woman from Clearidium eventually caught up with Jones at Fort Williams following a media conference to introduce the field of elite runners. Jones provided a urine sample and sat to have blood drawn from her arm.

Although she joked that she might be needing all that blood on race day, Jones said she was happy to take part in drug testing. Many of her fellow elite athletes echoed that sentiment.

“Obviously it’s not a foolproof system,” said Chris Derrick, 28, a 14-time All-American at Stanford who finished ninth in his marathon debut in Chicago two years ago. “You can’t catch everybody, but all of us appreciate the chance to compete on a more even playing field.”

Chris Derrick is one of the elite runners in Saturday’s Beach to Beacon 10K. “One thing I am proud of is that a lot of the pressure for better drug testing comes from the athletes,” he said. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Derrick said drug testing has become an essential component of any race that offers substantial money.

“If everyone who ran was a beknighted, noble hero, we wouldn’t need drug testing,” Derrick said. “But one thing I am proud of is that a lot of the pressure for better drug testing comes from the athletes.”

Derrick made reference to last year’s Beach to Beacon, when North Yarmouth native Ben True said there was no excuse for a race of this stature to be without drug testing. Through social media and other platforms, Derrick said, plenty of athletes call for stricter oversight regarding chemical performance enhancers.

“I think it’s good and reflects well on the sport that it comes from the athletes themselves and not from a governing body,” he said. “The NFL players union is always trying to not have drug-testing, right? So I’m proud of that culture aspect of the sport. Of course you can’t be proud of everyone. Because if you were, you wouldn’t need to test.”

Sharon Lokedi, who grew up in Kenya and recently graduated from the University of Kansas, said she welcomes the testing.

“Knowing the testing is available here is a very good thing,” said Lokedi, who trains in Flagstaff, Arizona, with a Standish native, Emily Durgin. “People have worked so hard to come and compete. Just get it honestly from their hard work.”

Bradley Guye, the crew chief with Clearidium, said his company provides testing for about two dozen road races in the United States each year. He said deterrence and education are other important components of the process. He declined to say how many athletes will be tested after Saturday’s race.

NOTES: As seems to be the case every year, visa issues cost the race a foreign runner or two. Larry Barthlow, the elite athlete recruiter, filled one spot with Alex Kororio of Kenya. Another Kenyan runner, William Malel Sitonik, dropped out not because of a visa problem but because of a car accident on his way to the airport. “Have you ever been to Africa?” Barthlow said. “The driving is ridiculous. When you’re there, I tell everyone my biggest fear is not disease, it’s car accidents.”

A noticeable wrinkle for this year’s race will be at each mile marker, where, in the race’s continuing strive toward sustainability, colorful arrangements of Mylar balloons have been replaced by recycled sailcloth. (Earlier this year, the towns of Unity and Kennebunk banned balloon releases because they often end up in the ocean, where sea turtles, whales and birds can mistake the deflated balloons as food.) Sea Bags, the Portland-based company that turns old sails into attractive tote bags, created the 6-foot-long banners. They will be repurposed after the race into one-of-a-kind, limited-edition tote bags that will be autographed by race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson and auctioned off, with all proceeds going to The Telling Room, this year’s race beneficiary.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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