The Buzz Behind the Falmouth Road Race
The Falmouth Road Race has an epic history that came to life starting in 1973 after local bartender and passionate long-distance runner, Tommy Leonard, became inspired by watching American Frank Shorter win the Olympic Marathon in the summer of 1972. Collaborating with John Carroll, a high school track coach, and Rick Sherman, the Falmouth recreation director, the Falmouth Road Race came to life with just under 100 runners.
In its second year, the race grew by 300% to 445 runners and the male winner was an unknown face at the time named Bill Rodgers. Little did they know that Bill Rodgers would go on to win four New York City Marathons and four Boston Marathons from 1975-1980. After the official premiere, the race continued to grow and in just 2 short years after commencement, renowned Frank Shorter entered and won the Falmouth Road Race with just under 1,000 other runners. The following year, famed American female runner Joan Benoit, won the Falmouth Road Race who would then 5 years later go on to win several marathons including Chicago and Boston. But her biggest shining moment came in 1984 when she became the first women’s marathon gold medal Olympian.
Since 2011, New Balance has taken the role sponsorship and today the New Balance Falmouth Road Race with race director Dave McGillivray is thought to be one of the top-rated non-marathon events. With now over 12,000 plus runners, each year the race attracts runners of all levels up to Olympic level athletes. Due to its growth, the race has come to rely on a randomly selective process, formerly known as a lottery, that begins usually in early May. However, residents and tax-payers of Falmouth get priority and receive guaranteed entry after a thorough vetting process.
What makes the NBFRR so special aside from the entries of prestige runners of who’s who in the running world and the beautiful landscape is the festive weekend that ensues along with the philanthropy that coincides with the mission of the race. The race proudly accepts adaptive athletes and wheelchair & wheelchair duo racers as well. For those who do not receive a race day entry through the random selection process, they have the opportunity to participate through one of several charities through the races’ Numbers for Nonprofits Program.
Your $75 entry registration fee has a great NBFRR goodie bag that includes an official NBFRR race mug, magazine, and poster, entry into the Health & Fitness Expo, transportation via bus to the start line, amenities on the course and a post-race party. It’s an absolute must, making a weekend out of it as not only can you enjoy the comforts of a summer break in a picturesque cape town but also due to the fact that there is no number pick-up on race day. Also, it is strongly recommended to stay until Monday as Sunday evening traffic out of the Cape can be quite difficult for travel plan returns on late Sunday.
In 2019, race weekend begins Thursday, August 16 and runs through the weekend until race day on Sunday, August 19. Events include the NBFRR Sports Medicine Conference and the Health & Fitness Expo, with over 50 vendors that service over 20,000 visitors, who also hosts several renowned speakers including Des Linden, winner of the 2018 Boston Marathon, Team Hoyt – Rick & Dick Hoyt Wheelchair duo legends, past champions, and legends, along with a world marathon challenge 7/7/7 panel. Additional races include The Falmouth Walk, SBLI Family Fun Run, Aetna Falmouth Elite Mile, & Tommy Cochary High School Mile on the Saturday before race day.
Due to the size of the race and the narrowness of the course, NBFRR uses a ‘Pulse Start’ for all non-seeded runners instead of corrals and waves. This means about 1,000 runners head out approximately every 2 minutes based on pace groups enabling less overcrowding at the 9 a.m. start, while the elite start at 8 a.m.
The race-course is certainly a challenge with its first three miles are said to be narrow, hilly, and winding but worth it to get to the next four miles that are flat with stunning seaside views. One last steep ascent cues you to the fast, downhill finish. The course provides Poland Spring water and Gatorade throughout the multiple aid stations. With a 2.5-hour time limit, it is suggested that you train for at least a 15-minute per mile pace. But in the meantime, take a look at some of the course records for men: 31:08 Gilbert Okari, Kenya, 2004 and women: 35:02 Lornah Kiplagat, Kenya, 2000.
If you are lucky enough to be a seeded runner, you have your chance at prize monies out of a total purse of $126,000. Prizes are awarded to the top 10 men and women, top 3 American men and women, top 3 masters men and women, top 3 Wheelchair men and women, among others.
So what are you waiting for? Next year be sure to take your chance at running the popular Falmouth Road Race and learn for yourself what all the buzz is about!