Kelly Brown, left, and Maureen Sproul, right, with elite men’s race winner Ben True in 2016.

Kelly Brown, left, and Maureen Sproul, right, with elite men’s race winner Ben True in 2016.

After running the very first Beach to Beacon 10k in 1998, Peg and Peter Rearick looked at each other and decided that the course in Cape Elizabeth was too hilly, and the late-summer weather was too hot for running.

Yet something made them come back for the race the second year.

“We thought, ‘OK, well we’ll try it one more time,'” Peg Rearick said.

At that point, Rearick said, the couple had a streak going, and they had to keep that streak intact. Now 20 years after that inaugural race, the Rearicks are still running that “too hilly” 6.2-mile route.

They’re part of an exclusive group known as the race’s “Legacy Runners” — competitors who haven’t missed even one of the 19 previous races. There’s 117 legacies left heading into the 20th running of the TD Beach to Beacon on Saturday.

The Rearicks are two of the 11 local legacies who have participated in each of the first 19 races, and will make it an even 20 on Saturday. The Hebron residents are one of two couples, along with Maureen and Willie Sproul of New Gloucester.

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“I think I sensed it was going to be big because (Joan Benoit Samuelson) was in at the ground floor, and it was her baby,” Maureen Sproul said. “So I sensed it was going to be something big, so I signed myself up as well as my husband.”

Samuelson is the race’s founder, and a Cape Elizabeth native. Her illustrious running career helped get the race kick-started.

“If it wasn’t for Joanie Benoit — well Joan Samuelson — I’m not sure we would have kept doing it,” Rearick said. “But the first year we saw her greeting everybody, she was picking up trash along the roadside. She was just very down-to-earth and welcoming people who were runners of all calibers.”

Samuelson’s presence played a part in Kelly Brown of Lewiston’s decision to keep coming back.

“I’ve always been a fan of Joanie’s and idolized her since my 20s, when she used to be at races,” Brown said. “I didn’t say, ‘Ooh, I’m going to do every race,’ it just kind of happened. And then once you do like 10, then you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah I’ll do it every year.”

Brown also was part of a legacy couple until her husband Scott had his streak broken due to injury. Kelly Brown found a way to avoid the same fate.

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“I went through breast cancer and I still ran it. I didn’t race it,” Brown said. “And then I had some other surgeries where I didn’t race it, but I was still able to run it. One of my surgeries I actually planned so I would be able to run it.”

Rearick also didn’t let cancer stop her from keeping her streak going 11 years ago.

“We became addicted to it … I still ran it because I didn’t want to miss it,” said Rearick, who admitted that running doesn’t come naturally to her.

Sproul called the race “very much a family thing.” For the Rearicks, though they have run it together every year, they haven’t necessarily run the race together.

“I usually don’t see that much of (Peter). I leave him at the starting line,” Rearick said. “I don’t see him until well after he’s done. So it’s not like really running with him.”

The Sproul family knows the Beach to Beacon is something that Maureen and Willie do together.

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“We make sure that we tell any of our nieces or nephews that are about to get married that they can’t have their wedding on Beach to Beacon weekend, otherwise we won’t be there,” Sproul said.

The legacy runners have become a family themselves. All the legacies are invited to a party thrown in their honor the week of the race. It’s a chance to reminisce, according to Sproul. Rearick said she might only see some of the other legacies at the race and its get-togethers, and that’s it until the next year.

“It’s like a homecoming,” Rearick said.

A homecoming that Brown came home early from watching the 2012 Summer Olympics in London to make sure that she didn’t miss that year’s Beach to Beacon.

“That’s how important it is to me,” Brown said.

While the legacies have their streak in common, their differences are numerous. They come from 44 different towns and cities (28 of which are in Maine) and eight states outside of Maine. The youngest is 29, the oldest is 82. The group includes 79 men and 38 women.

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The other local legacies are Mark Bancroft, of Paris; Shawn Carll, of New Gloucester; Mark Danyla and Daniel Morrow, of Auburn; Michael Trundy, of Hebron; and Gary Weber, of Lewiston.

How fast each legacy runs the race also varies. Brown started out as an elite runner, even earning winnings in that first race. She still aims to finish near the top of her age group.

Rearick, meanwhile, said she thinks the back of the pack is more fun.

It’s not the finish that keeps the legacies coming back. And thanks to the race’s powers-that-be making “a big stink about the legacy runners,” according to Brown, the special application process for “the streakers,” as they’re also known, those streaks won’t be finished until each legacy says so.

That also varies.

“At this point, we’ll both be 70 on the year that the 25th (race) comes, and so we’re both aiming for that,” Rearick said. “Then I’ll probably call it quits. I don’t know whether (Peter) will or not.”

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Sproul said she hopes to run “at least another 20” Beach to Beacons.

For Brown, it’s another three or four decades that she’s hoping for. She said she races smarter now, and puts less miles on her feet, legs and body than she used to.

The Beach to Beacon is a big deal to all of them. The race itself, though, has become a bigger deal than any of them could have imagined. Some of the world’s best runners have competed in and won the race. What used to be a simple application process now is a race just to get in.

But not for the legacies. Their dedication has been rewarded. They’ll run it until they can’t.

Until then, however, their legacy — and their streak — will stay intact.

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Maureen Sproul runs in a previous Beach to Beacon.

Maureen Sproul runs in a previous Beach to Beacon.

Legacy runners pose for a picture at a “Streaker Party” hosted by Local Buzz in Cape Elizabeth in 2016.

Legacy runners pose for a picture at a “Streaker Party” hosted by Local Buzz in Cape Elizabeth in 2016.

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