CAPE ELIZABETH — Ethiopia’s Wude Ayalew will be back to defend her TD Beach to Beacon 10K title next month.

Saturday, Aug. 6, will be Ayalew’s fifth time competing at Beach to Beacon,  and this time she won’t need to navigate around male runners. She’ll also be competing against a field that pared down due to the Summer Olympics in Rio, which begin the same weekend at Beach to Beacon.

While revealing the 27 professional runners in this year’s Beach to Beacon field Friday, organizers also announced the first-ever Elite Women’s start in the race’s 19-year history. The women will start at 8 a.m., which is 12 minutes ahead of the men and the rest of the field.

Race director Dave McGillivray said the Elite Women’s start offers the top female runners the opportunity to compete head-to-head while also providing their race with increased exposure among spectators and media. McGillivray also directs the B.A.A. Boston Marathon and the Falmouth Road Race, two other prominent races that start women earlier than men.

“We thought it would be a nice idea this year to showcase the women more — that is, enable everyone to see them better in the race rather than mixed in with the men,” McGillivray said.

Several talented runners will be in Rio, but Elite Athlete Coordinator Larry Barthlow said he is pleased with the field despite the challenges encountered in an Olympic year.

“The main issue with the Olympics is you are waiting until the last minute to see who makes a team and who doesn’t,” Barthlow said. “And in many cases, top athletes who don’t make their teams and would otherwise be available are mentally and physically exhausted from the effort.

“We lost a few athletes who just decided to shut it down. But all in all, we’ve got some tremendous athletes, and I think we’re going to see highly competitive races from both the men and the women.”

Ayalew might be one the biggest proponent of the Elite Women’s start. She entered her first Beach to Beacon, in 2007, as the favorite, but got tangled with a male runner and fell down — though she still managed to finish fourth.

Ayalew returned to Cape Elizabeth in 2010 and ran the course’s second-fastest time (31 minutes, 7 seconds), only to place second. She finally broke through for her first win in 2015.

The men’s title is up for grabs. Defending champion Stephen Kosgei Kibet of Kenya was unable to secure a visa, and will not be back this year, according to Elite Athlete Coordinator Larry Barthlow.

Many of the United States’ top distance runners have been drawn back to Beach to Beacon by the $23,000 purse for American men and women, sponsored buy Dunkin’ Donuts. The prize money is split evenly among the top five American men and women: $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second, $2,000 for third, $1,000 for fourth and $500 for fifth.

In all, the prize money available at Beach to Beacon is more than $90,000, with $10,000 awarded to the winners of the men’s and women’s open races and payouts to the top 10 runners overall.

The world-class athletes will join an expected field of more than 6,600 runners who will run along the fast, relatively flat course that begins near the Crescent Beach State Park entrance on Route 77 in Cape Elizabeth and ends 6.2 miles later in Fort Williams Park at the Portland Head Light. The race was founded by Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, who trained on the same roads while growing up in Cape Elizabeth.

New Hampshire native Eric Jenkins, a former University of Oregon standout who won the inaugural American-only prize last year, is returning to defend his title after just missing a trip to the Rio Olympics. Jenkins placed fourth in the 5,000-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Jenkins will be challenged by two-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, a two-time Olympian who once held the American 5,000-meter record; four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, who placed seventh overall in 2015; and Sam Chelanga, a two-time NCAA cross country champion.

The American men will look to make into the Open Top 10 against a strong field of international athletes, Micah Kogo of Kenya, a two-time Beach to Beacon champion (2011 and 2013) who earned a bronze medal in the 10,000 meters at the 2008 Olympics.

Barthlow said he also is intrigued by a pair of Kenyan track burners who train in Japan, William Malel Sitonik and James Mwangi Macharia.

In the women’s race, Ayalew will run against a field that includes Joyce Chepkirui, of Kenya. Chepkirui won the 2013 Beach to Beacon with a time of 31:23 — the third-fastest time on the course.

The women’s race also includes Mary Keitany of Kenya, one of the best marathoners in the world with a NYC Marathon win and two London Marathon titles; Berhane Dibaba, one of Ethiopia’s top young marathoners; and New Zealand’s Kim Smith, a three-time Olympian.

The American field is anchored by Jordan Hasay, a 16-time All-American at Oregon. She ran her first 10K as a professional runner at the 2014 Beach to Beacon, and placed fourth with an impressive 32:20. She will be challenged by Emily Sisson, who won both the NCAA Indoor (in record time) and Outdoor 5000 meters in 2015.

In 2015, a record-setting 6,602 runners from 15 countries, 41 states and more than 265 Maine cities and towns ran the 6.2-mile coastal course.


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