by Kyle Northrop, Marathon Sports staff member
If you want to run the Falmouth Road Race, finishing the historic 7 miles may be the easiest part of the journey. Fighting the lottery to get in and fighting to get over the bridge to pick up your bib number seem like even more of an ordeal than actually running the race itself.
This year I was shut out of the lottery but was lucky enough to be given an invitational number from New Balance, the title sponsor of the race. And per usual, I spent many frustrated minutes in traffic trying to get to Falmouth on Saturday for the race expo. For a race that many call a logistical nightmare, why do 10,000 people run it each year?
It’s about the history of the sport, the roots of running stemming from a couple of guys having a drink in the bar and saying ‘let’s do this.’ That spirit of loving the run, and running to enjoy the run, is why I keep going back.
At 5:15am, ‘Good Morning’ by Kanye West wakes me up. Cheesy, yes. But it gets me out of bed. I get to the line around 7:15 with my girlfriend and now it’s time for the waiting game. Since I was shooting for a sub-40 minute race, I was in the seeded section and was able to sneak off onto Falmouth’s bike path for a run. I arrived after several elite runners helped save a cyclist’s life after a crash, which delayed the race a full 10 minutes.
Falmouth is notorious for its nasty weather, and this year was no different. With temperatures reaching around 85 degrees and high humidity, I knew a fast time was out of the picture. Very quickly after the race started, I knew it would be a struggle just to finish.
By the time I hit mile 1, my legs were already feeling it. I struggle running in the heat, and while I was running a pace that is usually easy for me, my legs and heart were working much harder than they usually would. Once we opened out on the roads around the 3.5 mile marker, I was toast. Literal, burnt-to-a-crisp, dry, unappealing toast. I moved over to the side of the road, put my head down, mentally prepared myself to just keep my legs moving. Soon, I was saved…
The amount of people who passed me from mile 3 to 4 was too many to count. I had pretty much given up on running fast and finishing was my only goal. A woman in a baseball cap passed me and she looked vaguely familiar to me. I realized it was none other than six-time Falmouth champion (and first-ever women’s Olympic Marathon champion & two-time Boston Marathon champion) Joan Benoit Samuelson. Something came over me. I moved up next to her and was focused on not letting the 58 year old running legend put too much distance on me.
Throughout the next few miles I willed my legs to push myself past her and try to outdistance her, but every time I moved up, I would quickly find her again on my shoulder. I could not shake her! I felt so honored just to be running alongside her, but this was no casual jaunt in the park. This was a race.
With a final push up the hill to Falmouth Heights I had a good 20 foot gap on her, but she came back and we fought for the line, crossing at the same time! Due to the chip time, I ‘won’ by 4 seconds, but we finished together. I have to thank her for keeping my head in the race on a day where I wanted to throw in the towel. It was not the time or place that I wanted, but it was the race I needed. It was a gutsy, hard effort.