2012-08-10 / Front Page

Desire to run draws bandits to Beach to Beacon road race

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Stanley Biwott of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the 15th annual TD Beach to Beacon 10k on Saturday, Aug. 8. Biwott finished the race in 27 minutes, 58.6 seconds, beating out second place finisher Stephen Kipkosgei-Kibet, also from Kenya, by 2.5 seconds. (Jack Flagler photo) Stanley Biwott of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the 15th annual TD Beach to Beacon 10k on Saturday, Aug. 8. Biwott finished the race in 27 minutes, 58.6 seconds, beating out second place finisher Stephen Kipkosgei-Kibet, also from Kenya, by 2.5 seconds. (Jack Flagler photo) CAPE ELIZABETH—Every year, when the annual TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race approaches, Race Director Dave McGillivray has to send out over 1,000 emails or letters to hopeful participants telling them they were not selected in the lottery to run the race.

This year, the Beach to Beacon eclipsed 6,000 finishers for the first time in its 15-year history. Streams of the sweaty, exhausted runners poured over the finish line at Fort Williams Park on Aug. 4.

But McGillivray said if organizers left registration open to all comers right up to race day, those runners would hardly be able to get down the course.

“I don’t know what the number could be if we just opened it and never shut it down. It would be at least 10,000,” McGillivray said.


Anne Sarbanis of South Portland pauses briefly on her way to the finish line at the Beach to Beacon 10k to say hello to her husband Tom Sarbanis, son Levi, 18 months, and daughter Georgia, 4. (Jack Flagler photo) Anne Sarbanis of South Portland pauses briefly on her way to the finish line at the Beach to Beacon 10k to say hello to her husband Tom Sarbanis, son Levi, 18 months, and daughter Georgia, 4. (Jack Flagler photo) Despite all the rejected runners, McGillivray said the issue of what he calls “bandits”–unregistered runners that slip onto the course– isn’t a huge problem at the Beach to Beacon.

Kevin Hardison, 28, attended South Portland High School and now lives in Portland, where he works for an insurance company. He said he has run in the race unregistered about five times over the last 10 years and, while every year he has seen a few people doing the same thing, he doesn’t think ghost runners are a major threat.


Beach to Beacon runners walk from the finish line to the food and water tents at the Beach to Beacon 10k as spectators look on from the top of the hill at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. (Jack Flagler photo) Beach to Beacon runners walk from the finish line to the food and water tents at the Beach to Beacon 10k as spectators look on from the top of the hill at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. (Jack Flagler photo) “It’s not, like, a problem. No one was really actively looking for you. It’s not an extra 1,000 people, it’s 20 to 50. You can spot them if you’re looking for them,” Hardison said. “I don’t see a problem with it because I never thought of it as an epidemic.”

Hardison said unregistered runners are usually not elite competitive athletes or people with bad intentions hoping to compromise the integrity of the race. Rather, it’s generally a few family members of registered runners there to keep their loved ones company.

In Hardison’s case, he ran with friends who would drive him up to the race site. At the start line, his friend would peel the adhesive from the magnetic band with the chip that keeps track of runners’ times, and Hardison would put on the discarded piece. Then, he would take off his shirt and tuck it into his shorts, as many runners do to keep cool, so his lack of a bib number would not be obvious.

Hardison said he didn’t care so much about his finishing time, but enjoys the race because of the sheer size.

“It’s mostly the spectacle of it because it’s such a big event. It was just kind of a fun thing to do,” Hardison said.

Although a few dozen extra runners at the start line of the race don’t pose a grave threat to the success of the Beach to Beacon, McGillivray said unregistered runners in general are not allowed on the course for purposes of both safety and fairness.

If an unregistered runner needs medical attention, McGillivray said, race staff won’t immediately be able to identify the person. Then, if those unregistered runners need to go to the medical tent, they further crowd an already busy area where medical staff attend to runners suffering from heat stroke, exhaustion or dehydration, especially if conditions are the way they were this year.

Then, there’s the issue of providing each runner the same opportunity to succeed.

“It’s like going into Fenway Park without a ticket and taking someone’s seat,” McGillivray said.

McGillivray addressed the question in his “Ask the Race Director” blog, in which he answers questions from runners at RunnersWorld.com.

“Is it fair to allow some participants to do this when others cannot?” McGillivray asked a user who had questioned whether he could bring a “pacer” to run with him to provide help and encouragement.

Additionally, McGillivray said unregistered runners take services like water and portable restrooms that registered participants paid for.

“The experience becomes jeopardized for those who have earned the rights, so let your conscience be your guide,” McGillivray said.

But McGillivray said the Beach to Beacon bandits aren’t as much of a problem as they are in other races. Hardison agreed.

“No one’s trying to screw with the records and run a 4:30 last mile and wind up winning the race. It’s mostly hobby runners,” Hardison said.

McGillivray’s company, DMSE Sports, manages a number of major road races across the country, including the Boston Marathon. At that race, spectators are more likely to jump in somewhere along the 26.2 mile course, which presents a problem at the finish line. Also, runners need to qualify for that race, which adds to the number of unregistered runners.

“If there are people who think they can’t qualify, the only way they could do it is to run unofficial. There are a lot of them. It’s something we constantly wrestle with,” McGillivray said.

Since only a few bandits sneak onto the Beach to Beacon course, McGillivray said DMSE Sports doesn’t have to plan ahead to deal with the unregistered runners. But with 6,000 finishers, he said the race is currently close to “maximum capacity,” so there is really no room for additional participants, registered or not.

This year, temperatures climbed into the 80s on the morning of the Beach to Beacon with high levels of humidity.

“It was disgustingly hot,” said Andrew Lupien, a math teacher at Cape Elizabeth High School and former South Portland High School cross-country coach. “You get some open stretches in the sun and you’re just dying.”

“The second half of the race sucked,” added Darryl Wilkinson, a 2012 South Portland High School graduate.

Wilkinson ran track at South Portland, but said he had to bear down through the final half of the Beach to Beacon, which was a challenge when he saw some runners vomiting or being pulled off the course.

Kevin Hardison said he had plans that prevented him from running unregistered again this year.

He might be happy he sat this one out.

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