CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — When Terri Patterson and her family first moved to Maine in the early 2000s, she said she was surprised by the lack of diversity, despite the Pine Tree State's reputation for being the oldest, whitest state in the nation. But Patterson and her family settled down in Cape Elizabeth, where a chance to help and interact with people from different cultures is quite literally right around the corner.
The TD Beacon to Beacon 10K Road Race has been happening in the coastal town since 1998. It brings more than 6,000 runners to Maine from across the globe, who race from Crescent Beach State Park to the famous Portland Head Light. The runners coming from away need a place to stay for the long weekend, and that's where Patterson found her opportunity.
"When we moved here, there were lots of neighbors on our street who had hosted runners in the past," Patterson explained.
About a year or two after they had settled into their home, her family decided to jump on board, too.
"We’ve hosted runners from Burundi and Kenya," Patterson said. "We’ve hosted runners that were born out of the country but then lived in the U.S. We’ve hosted U.S.-born runners."
For Patterson, it's an experience she would never take back.
When they first moved to Maine, her two boys were quite young. She said hosting runners has helped expose them to different people and teach them more about other cultures.
"It was really, I think, a good lesson for us, for our kids, and for the community to get to know something really different," Patterson said, also noting Maine is "not representative of the whole world."
One of the runners Patterson's family hosted is a woman she is still in touch with and calls a friend. Diane Nukuri is originally from Burundi but left the country in 2001 and moved from Canada to Kansas to Iowa, finally settling down in Flagstaff, Arizona in 2014. That was her first year running the Beach to Beacon, and the Pattersons are the first host family she ever stayed with for a race.
"I remember the first time I went there, their boys were really young," Nukuri said. "Now, they’re in college, which is crazy."
Nukuri said since she's not with her own family, she has had to gain family in other ways. She said staying with host families like the Pattersons has allowed her to do that.
"Even when I didn’t stay with them, they would come to the finish [line] and say 'hi' to me," Nukuri smiled. "To me, they’re just kind of like family, and I always look forward to seeing them when I’m there."
Nukuri isn't running in the race this year, but Patterson is still expecting to host a runner, if all goes as planned — this time, a man from Australia.
She said in the race's first year back after a pause because of the pandemic, organizers are expecting to see runners from Australia, Ethiopia, Kenya, New Zealand, the U.K., and from all over the U.S.
"We’re all looking for connection, I think," Patterson said. "The last two years in particular, I felt so disconnected."
You can learn more about the TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race here.