Runners at the start of the 2019 TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race, the last time the race was held as an in-person event. David Backer, president of the race, says organizers are planning for the event to return to Cape Elizabeth this summer “with a full field” on Aug. 6. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The TD Beach to Beacon 10K, Maine’s most popular road race, will require runners and volunteers to show proof of vaccination in 2022 as organizers plan for the return of an in-person event for the first time in three years.

The race was founded by former Olympic marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson in 1998. The event typically draws more than 6,000 entrants each summer to Cape Elizabeth, but it was canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and held as a virtual-only event in 2021.

This year’s race is scheduled for Aug. 6. Cape Elizabeth officials have approved use of Fort Williams Park, where the race finishes.

“We are in full-steam ahead planning mode for an August 6th live event with a full field,” Beach to Beacon President David Backer said.

Backer said the decision to require vaccinations for runners and volunteers was made “purely (for) public safety.” He said a policy on mask use has not been finalized, but anticipates runners will be required to wear masks before and after the race but not while competing.

The Beach to Beacon is the latest road race to require proof of vaccination. In October, the Maine Marathon required vaccinations for all entrants, volunteers and vendors. This year, the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon also will require proof of vaccination.

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Sheri Piers, 50, of Falmouth, applauded the decisions to return to live racing and having a vaccination requirement. Piers was the top finisher among Maine women at Beach to Beacon in 2009, 2011 and 2012. She works as a nurse practitioner and medical director at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.

“It’s going to be great for the community. Everyone will be so excited,” Piers said. “And I work in a college with a vaccination requirement so I’m also familiar with those decisions, and also the backlash and the support for those decisions.

“Just like I’ve seen here (at St. Joe’s), you’re never going to please everybody. You have to go with what makes the most sense to keep the community safe and healthy. If Beach to Beacon goes with (a vaccination requirement), I think that’s great and I will totally support that. But they will lose people because not everyone believes in the science and not everyone believes it should be mandated.”

Backer acknowledged there are likely to be veteran Beach to Beacon participants who will balk at the vaccination requirement.

“But they aren’t going to run it in 2022,” unless they get vaccinated, he said.

‘I SEE IT AS A NON-ISSUE’

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Last fall, the Maine Marathon attracted more than 3,000 runners for its marathon, half marathon and relay races. As of now, vaccinations also will be required for the 2022 Maine Marathon.

“I see it as a non-issue,” said Bob Dunfey, the Maine Marathon race director. Organizers conducted a post-race survey last fall, Dunfey said, and “there was no negative feedback in the survey, maybe a runner or two” about the vaccination requirement.

Beach to Beacon board member Rob Gomez, who famously helped fellow runner Jesse Orach back to his feet in the final yards of the 2017 Maine men’s race and pushed Orach across the finish line for the victory, said the vaccination requirement provides an extra layer of safety for all participants.

Rob Gomez assists Jesse Orach across the finish line at the 2017 Beach to Beacon 10K. Orach had been leading runners in the Maine men’s division before collapsing yards from the finish. John Ewing/Staff file photo

SELLOUT EXPECTED

“Inevitably, there will be some not able to attend based on their personal philosophy. As you know, the slots for this race sell out quickly and it’s a hard race to get into. Even with the decision to require vaccinations, the race will be full, and that provides peace of mind to those participating that that added protection will be there,” said Gomez, 38, who joined the Beach to Beacon board in January 2020 and plans to race this year.

Liz Huebener, 65, of Cape Elizabeth, has run in every edition of the race dating to 1998. She called the vaccination requirement a matter of both respect and safety.

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“It’s more for the comfort of the participants,” she said. “Even though we know (a vaccine or booster) is not going to prevent people from getting the virus, it’s going to make it a lot easier to get through if you do get (COVID).”

Huebener said there’s a risk to catching anything when you’re in a crowd of 6,000 people, but the fitness level required for running 6.2 miles means that “most people involved in that race are not going to have co-morbidities.”

Registration for the 2022 Beach to Beacon will be done in stages.

From March 1-7 registration will be open to the approximately 4,000 runners who had registered for the 2020 race prior to its cancellation, along with the first 1,000 people who registered for the 2021 virtual event. This year’s entry fee is $65. The entry fee in 2020 was $55, which was refunded, and $35 for the 2021 virtual event.

On March 15, Cape Elizabeth residents will have the opportunity to register, starting at 7 a.m. Open registration begins March 16, also at 7 a.m.

The number of race bibs available to Cape Elizabeth residents and the general population will be announced prior to those groups’ registration dates. Runners will register through the race’s website.

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“There will certainly be a much smaller number of available bibs for general registration this year,” Backer said.

ELITE FIELD EXPECTED

International runners are expected in the elite men’s and women’s races, vying for the lion’s share of what has been over $90,000 in prize money.

“That’s still a little bit unknown, but yes, the short answer is, we are planning on an international elite field,” Backer said.

The race once will again name a Maine-based charitable or nonprofit organization to receive a $30,000 donation through the TD Charitable Foundation. Backer said the 2022 beneficiary has been chosen and will be announced soon.

The Kids Fun Run and the High School Mile also will return in 2022, on Aug. 5 at Fort Williams. Registration for those events will begin on April 1 and continue through July 31.

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Details around the logistics of the race – specifically how to handle getting over 6,000 recreational runners started – have not been finalized.

Backer said it is a “possibility and it’s the most likely option” that the Beach to Beacon will use what is referred to as a rolling start. Runners will be given a time to show up at the starting line and then begin the race.

“You show up at the starting line and you don’t stand around shoulder-to-shoulder,” Backer said. “You get out of your car, or get off the bus and you go. Everybody other than the elite (runners) have a time based on their chip anyway.”

As has been the case for several years, a transponder in the race bibs starts each runner’s personal clock when they cross the start line and stops their clock when they reach the finish line.

“The elite times, when you see those results, that’s the gun time,” Backer said. “You don’t need a gun start to launch 6,500 runners down the road.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan contributed to this story.


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