Thursday, August 1, 2002

Cape opens its homes to runners

Published in the Current

The Beach to Beacon race is Saturday and Cape Elizabeth families are preparing their guest rooms for international runners.

Rather than putting up elite racers in hotels, the Beach to Beacon includes a hometown touch: a visit to a Cape home.

Ann Marie Miliard’s family will host their fourth runner this year.

“It’s a great experience,” she said. She has two older kids, who come home from college for the summer. “We just really enjoy hosting the athletes,” Miliard said.

The first year they hosted, which was the race’s second year, the Miliards had a Japanese runner and her coach. The second year they had a British runner who ended up running the marathon in the Sydney Olympics. Miliard said they watched, but “she didn’t do so well.”

Last year the family hosted a Japanese runner. A neighbor was host to another Japanese runner, so the two were able to train together.

This year the Miliard home will open to Kenyan elite runner Esther Kiplagat. Miliard said she tries not to plan too many activities for the visitors.

“This is an athlete and they’re in training,” Miliard said. But she is sure of one thing in the pre-race schedule. “They usually want to run,” she said.

She also finds out what the athletes like to eat the night before and the morning of the race, so she can prepare them to perform.

One year a group of neighbors, including the Miliards, had a large potluck dinner with families and athletes.

Miliard is not running the race, but does have a plan for the morning of August 3.

“I’m going to stand right at the end of my street and cheer everybody on,” she said.

Elizabeth Wexler’s family is getting set for their third hosting gig, but the visitor this time will be a friend from last year, Evans Rutto, a Kenyan runner.

“We decided it would be really interesting,” Wexler said of the family’s choice to play host. Last year Wexler took Rutto around town to farmstands and supermarkets to purchase ingredients for an African dish Rutto likes to make for himself the night before races.

In the morning, she took Rutto and her husband, who also was running the race, to the start and then went to Fort Williams to catch the finish.

She was surprised to watch Rutto win.

“It was just an incredible thrill for our family,” Wexler said.

Before he left, Rutto gave Richard Wexler some pointers for his training for this year’s race.

“It’s interesting for the whole family and I think it’s interesting for the whole town,” Wexler said.

Ann Clark’s family is just beginning to learn what’s involved. It will be the first year the Clarks have hosted an athlete. “We always find these people just absolutely fascinating,” she said.

The family’s guest will be elite runner Abdi Abdirahan, a Somali-born U.S. citizen who now lives and trains in Phoenix.

Clark plans to show her guest the race route and have her family, including her husband and their young son and daughter, spend some time with him.

“I’m sure it’ll be a great experience,” Clark said. “We’re excited. I’m glad we can do it.”

Clark will run the race this year, but doesn’t expect to keep up with her guest. “I’ll be behind him,” she laughed.

As the community comes together around the race, Miliard sums up the reason so many Cape homes open up to international runners: “We just wanted to be part of it.”