Girls go the distance for B2B

Westbrook Middle School students Mackinna Campbell, left, and Gwen Catalano will be among the youngest runners in the 20th annual Beach to Beacon 10K road race on Saturday.

WESTBROOK – Running a 10K at 12 years old is impressive, but if it was up to Mackinna Campbell and Gwen Catalano, they would have done it years ago.

The girls, who are rising seventh graders at Westbrook Middle School, will be running the Beach to Beacon road race on Aug. 5. The 20th annual race starts near Crescent Beach in Cape Elizabeth and ends at Fort Williams Park.

Gwen and Mackinna, who have been friends since second grade, started training for the race in June right after school let out for the summer. They created a training program in which they ran one mile the first week and continued increasing their distance each week.

They do cross-training and are on a track team, which has practice twice a week in the summer. The girls have also run other races this summer, including the 4-mile race at Casco Days on July 29.

They said they prefer running longer races. The Beach to Beacon is 6.2 miles.

“I like running and I like long distance better,” Mackinna said.

Even though they’re young, they have the energy and stamina to endure the long distance. Gwen said in some ways it’s easier than competing in shorter races.

“Short distance is harder for me because I don’t have a lot of speed,” she said. “With long distance I can be slow and steady.”

In addition to the 10K Beach to Beacon race, there’s also a Kids’ Fun Run and a high school 1-mile race on Aug. 4, but the girls said they weren’t interested in those races.

Many kids run the full Beach to Beacon, with three 9-year-olds running it in 2015. Although kids seem to enjoy it, the founder of the race, Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, advises against it.

Samuelson in 2015 said it’s not healthy for kids, whose bodies are still developing, to run long distances. Despite her wariness, the race gives prizes in a 14 and under age category.

In 2016, the fastest girl was Falmouth resident Karley Piers, 13, who is the daughter of elite runner Sheri Piers. She finished with a time of 41:44. The fastest boy was 14-year-old Aiden Willey, of Standish, with a time of 39:15.

Also finishing in the top 10 for girls was a 10-year-old. Hadley Mahoney, of Cape Elizabeth, finished in 51:27.

Gwen and Mackinna said their goal is to finish in under 70 minutes.

Mackinna’s mother, Christine Campbell, said her daughter has wanted to run the Beach to Beacon for some time now. Mackinna has been running since she was 6 and has attended many Beach to Beacon races.

“She kept asking me every year and I always said not yet,” said Campbell, who will be running the race for the ninth time this year.

Campbell said Mackinna began expressing a more serious interest in the race last year.

“I think she kind of had it in her mind last year that she wanted to, but I figured with the lead time she could get the training in,” Campbell said.

Gwen’s mother, Sarah Catalano, said the girls have been training a lot and that it’s gone well because they have each other as motivation.

“It was definitely a friendship-motivated training,” Catalano said.

Friendship and family are two strong themes of the Beach to Beacon, Campbell and Catalano said. Two of Gwen’s aunts have run the race for many years, and the Campbell family runs it too.

“It’s become one of my favorite days of the year,” Campbell said. “I’m glad Mackinna’s interested.”

Campbell and her husband Mark will be running the race this year, but not with Mackinna and Gwen. Mackinna said she wants to do this separate from her parents.

The whole group plans to gather  after, though, and enjoy time together in the park.

“We kind of make a day of it,” Campbell said.

Catalano agreed and said it’s a great event for bringing people together.

“It’s a family event, always,” she said.

The girls said they’re looking forward to the race and aren’t too nervous. While they’re excited for the run itself, they said they’re most excited about crossing the finish line.

“I’ve watched before,” Gwen said. “There’s a lot of people cheering you on, so I think it’ll be a happy moment for me and Mackinna.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Westbrook Middle School students Mackinna Campbell, left, and Gwen Catalano will be among the youngest runners in the 20th annual Beach to Beacon 10K road race on Saturday.

Mackinna Campbell, left, and Gwen Catalano, both 12, have been training all summer for their first run of the Beach to Beacon 10K road race, which is scheduled for Aug. 5.