Beach to Beacon 10K will have a virtual option, but a live race is uncertain

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Steve Craig, Portland Press Herald, Maine
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Mar. 23—There will be a virtual version of the 2021 TD Beach to Beacon 10K.

But race organizers are still trying to determine what, if any, live activities can be added to the event founded by Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson in 1998.

"We're looking at some in-person events to supplement the virtual race and that has any number of possible permutations," David Backer, Beach to Beacon's president, said Tuesday after announcement of the race's virtual option. "It could be anything from a few thousand runners to something more ceremonial."

The 2020 race was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, with all entrants receiving a refund of their entry fee. Unlike some other large events in the running and cycling community, Beach to Beacon did not offer a virtual race.

What exactly the 2021 race will look like is still unclear. Backer said any in-person activities must meet standards of safety and receive approval from the town of Cape Elizabeth.

Some of the things that have made Maine's largest road race a world-class event cannot happen, Backer said.

There will not be an elite field of international runners this year, even if an actual race takes place.

"There isn't any circumstance where we could bring in an international field. We view that as completely unrealistic," Backer said. Also expected to be shelved for another year would be auxiliary events like the pre-race expo, volunteer dinner, and post-race lobster bake.

If a live event is held, it would be with a significantly smaller field (6,413 people finished the race in 2019), and would have to use rolling waved starts over an extended period of time. Upon completion of the 6.2-mile race at Fort Williams there would be no frills or amenities.

"More likely you'd get to the fort, be handed a bottle of water and then told to get on a bus to take you back to your car," Backer said, adding that race organizers have to ask the question, "How different of an event can we realistically be putting on and still call it the TD Beach to Beacon?"

Backer acknowledged such decisions need to be made soon, at least by mid-April.

Registration has not opened, even for the virtual race. The target date for any live event is still Saturday, Aug. 7. Beach to Beacon is traditionally held on the first Saturday in August.

"To say these are unknown and challenging times is more than an understatement, but we have proven time and again that this is a strong, resilient community," Samuelson said in a press release. "As runners, we know all about perseverance, and I have no doubt we will persevere to come out of this pandemic stronger than before."