This past Sunday was the 41st running of the Falmouth Road Race, a 7.1 mile Cape Cod race beginning in Woods Hole and ending in Falmouth Heights. The location, beautiful course and history make it one of the most popular New England summer races of the year, but it also has a tricky registration system. You can earn yourself an official entry one of three ways, 1) have a Falmouth residency and be able to prove that you are a town taxpayer (not renting for the summer), 2) be one of the lucky individuals who enter the annual lottery and be chosen, 3) Join a non-profit team and raise money for a cause.
Last year on behalf of the New England Organ Bank (where I work) I applied for entries and we were given ten. It was a great experience and the first NEOB team was a huge success. The team was an incredible group of runners and it was so much fun for me to combine my enthusiasm for running with my job. I had high hopes for this to be an annual event so I was thrilled when we were chosen again and given even more entries to grow our team. I started recruiting in the late spring and found another amazing group of runners. The team included several returning runners from last year and a new crop of awesome people excited to represent the New England Organ Bank. Most of the team had a connection to our mission of educating the community about organ and tissue donation and they included transplant nurses, a recipient’s daughter, a brother/sister team whose brother became a donor several years ago, a donor daughter, and a living kidney donor…plus many more. I was in awe of their dedication and enthusiasm.
I coordinated a meeting time for the team before taking the shuttles to the start and it gave everyone an opportunity to meet and chat before the race. They talked about their training and some shared their personal connection to donation. With so many of our runners having an emotional tie to the cause it made for some quick bonding. After taking the school bus to the start at Woods Hole we found a shady spot and tried to relax for a while before taking some group pictures and then splitting up to head for our respective corrals.
After crossing the finish line, runners are sent to a big field with water, juice and other refreshments. We had a post-race meeting spot there so I got to see most of the runners after they had finished. I am happy to report that all of my runners successfully crossed the finish line and were smiling when I saw them after the race. Many of them shared that they loved being a part of it and can’t wait to come back next year. It was pretty terrific feedback and I am so proud of all of them.
Early in the season I set a fundraising goal of $20,000 and we crushed it! As of now the team has raised over $30,000 and there is more to come. Visit our fundraising web page if you would like to contribute to the team.
Although I was plenty busy running around the Cape making sure the team had everything they needed for a successful race, I opted to participate in the race with them. This is the 7th Falmouth I have raced making it one of my highest repeats of all my races.
I had to check on this to make sure it was true and it turns out that Falmouth is tied with the Fairfield Half Marathon and Hyannis Half Marathon for 7 repeats. They follow the Commodore Hull Thanksgiving race which has the highest repeats of 11 and then the Boston Marathon which is 8. Apparently I am a race loyalist.
I was hesitant to run this race again. It’s always very hot and there is little shade on the course. Last year the humidity was unbelievable making it one of the most miserable 7 miles of my running career (link to last year’s race report) but since I was going to support the team anyway I decided to run. Thankfully the weather was much better for running than last year. It was still very warm but there was a nice breeze and the humidity was low.
A theme this year at Falmouth was ‘Falmouth is Boston Strong’. They sold t-shirts with the phrase and they spoke about the resilience of Boston before the race. We then learned that Jeff Bauman would be the official race starter. Jeff, who lost both legs as a result of the marathon bombings, has become a symbol for the strength of the Boston community. His positive attitude and spirit is inspiring and a great way to kick off the race. After hearing Jeff speak I was definitely ready to give this course my all.
My previous times for the course are all over the map I ran a 1:02:23 in 2006 and then posted faster and faster times every year including a kick ass 52:52 in 2009 (the year I was training to qualify for Boston). I knew a PR wasn’t in the cards but in 2010 I finished in a 57:27 so I decided to shoot for that time and average around 8 minute miles. The race is always crowded in the beginning and I was in the 3rd corral so I knew it was going to be a tough start. I opted to stay relaxed for the first mile and not worry about breaking through until we were at least a mile or so in (Mile 1 8:45), the second mile wasn’t much easier and I wasn’t able to speed up much at all (Mile 2 8:43) but finally somewhere in mile three things began to open up a little bit and I finally had an opportunity to pick up a little speed about half way through (Mile 3 8:11). Once those first three miles were behind me I was able to get closer to my target average. I kept telling myself that I had preserved all that energy in the beginning so I was free to push myself. Miles 4, 5 and 6 all clocked in at a consistent 7:51 and every time I looked down at my watch my pace average was falling 2-3 seconds. The last full mile includes a tough hill that I thought was going to crush me but I still had fuel left so I powered up and only lost a second in my split. The road evened out heading toward the big beautiful American Flag and I sprinted toward the mats. I crossed in 57:41 and averaged an 8:07 minute mile. I was a little disappointed at first that I didn’t run what I had originally wanted but once I had an opportunity to study my splits I realized I did they best I could with the situation and I felt great the whole time.
There were water/ Gatorade spots every mile and I grabbed one or the other at every even mile making sure I took Gatorade as well as water to make sure my salt and hydration stayed balanced. The volunteers and crowd were so inspiring cheering us all on along the course. I even got to see some friends along the way. They were all so motivating to push every mile.
It’s always been interesting for me to combine racing with work events. I am focused so much on the team and making sure they have all that they need and are feeling confident that I forget about any of my own pre-race anxiety. I didn’t have any opportunity to worry about my own run since I was pre occupied with texting team members, making sure they all had their bib numbers and safety pins and getting to know them all. Sometimes it can be stressful but often, like Sunday, it works out perfectly.
I will happily come back to Falmouth in 2014 for an eighth run of the road race and hope that my team does too!!
Thank you to all of the race organizers, volunteers, supporters and Falmouth residents for orchestrating such an incredible event.
An extra special thank you to my NEOB team for their dedication to the cause, and making my job so special!