The New Balance Falmouth Road Race, a rite of New England road racing, by Jeff Benjamin


Sambu_StephenFV-Falmouth15.JPGStephen Sambu wins NB Falmouth 2015, photo by

Ten thousand runners enjoyed the ritual of New England road racing, the New Balance Falmouth road race. Now in it's 43rd year, this race features the best of global road racing.

But, as Jeff Benjamn notes, the NB Falmouth road race is a celebration of summer road racing, and the runners who enjoy the race, the thousands of fans who watch the race and enjoy the theatrics of this one of kind event! From the ascerbic wit of race announcer Toni Reavis to the lead car, with race founder and bon vivant, Tommy Leonard, to the post race parties, the NB Falmouth Road race has something for the running spectrum.

Here is Jeff Benjamin's piece on one of his favorite races anywhere!

Nukuri_DianeFV-Falmouth15.JPGDiane Nukuri winning the 2015 NB Falmouth Road Race, photo by

Falmouth Road Race--by Jeff Benjamin
The finish line of this year's 43rd edition of the 2015 New Balance Falmouth road race was awash in an initial flood of purple singlets as the top five men's finishers, led by defending champion Stephan Sambu (32:17) and subsequently followed by his Kenyan compatriots Michah Kogo (32:19), Leonard Korir (32:20) , newly-turned American citizen Sam Chelanga (32:21) and Ugandan Moses Kipsoro (32:30) all finished within 13 seconds of one another, in one of the more dramatic finishes of the year. For Sambu, who is now a repeat champion, the victories "mean a lot to me". As for his move to break the last of his competitors with about a ¼ mile to go along the crest of the last (and the toughest) hill along the course, Sambu later said, "my knowledge of the course definitely helped," as he then used the subsequent downhill to sprint and break the finish line tape.
While the men's race ended in dramatic fashion, for Diane Nukuri , who was very non-committal at the pre-race press conference as to what strategies she would try to finally win (she had finished in the top 5 at Falmouth in previous years) it was a case of trying and persevering, which finally paid off on the day. The Burundi native basically dominated the field, as she led from around the 3-mile mark and despite looking back a bit, won easily in 36:47. American Sara Hall, who possibly is in heavy marathon training, tried to catch the victor, but finished in 37:10 as Ethiopian Sentayehu Ejigu (37:26) finished third, followed by Americans Neely Spence-Gracey (37:32) and Amy Cragg (37:53). "I'm finally very happy to have won," said Nukuri at the post race party.
As for the inaugural "Countdown" bonus prize, it was a case of a new success for Falmouth as the idea of a handicapped-style timing trial between the men and women was also dramatic as Sambu was able to finish just 3 seconds under the timed standard, thus giving him the $5,000 bonus.
-Newly minted 40 year old Meb Keflezghi stayed in the lead pack in the early stages of the race and finished 10th overall and won the Men's masters division in an impressive 34:01. When discussing training as a Masters runner, the Olympic marathon medalist and NYC and Boston champion said after the race, "I have to be careful about my recovery." He also was given advice by Frank Shorter. "Frank said to me to try and get those masters records as early as I can!," he said laughingly.
-After the race, quite a few of the runners went out on long runs, perhaps to get ready for a Marathon in the Fall. Second place finisher Micah Kogo, who still holds the world's best on the roads for the 10K, said he will most probably try and represent Kenya in the Marathon. Neely Spence-Gracey was very happy to be healthy again, after battling some injuries during the last few years, including a surgery. Talking about her Dad, 1991World Bronze medalist and 1992 Olympian Steve Spence, she explained how her father described the race to her (where he finished 2nd in 1988) and even helped use visualization techniques. As for 2016, the multiple former Division 2 champion was non-committal. "But I'll be ready," she said.
-While also personally not too committal, word was about that Sara Hall, who went out for a 10-mile run after the race, might be looking at the Olympic Trails Marathon in Los Angeles next year. Her challenge is that she needs a qualifying time, and one can wonder with all the distance she is putting in, would she debut in the Fall, possibly on a flat course like Chicago to get the qualifier?
-Many of the runners, especially Spence-Gracey, expressed lots of gratitude for the host families of the community, who graciously open their home for the week to give the athletes a place to stay.
-Falmouth also brings in the Champions of the past, as Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit-Samuelson all ran in the race again this year. Also joining the foray was former marathon record holder Steve Jones, and 2-time Boston Marathon Geoff Smith. Beating them all was Benoit-Samuelson, as the 1984 inaugural Women's Olympic Champion and 7-time Falmouth champion averaged 6:22 per mile, running 44:31 and winning her age group for more than 10 years in a row now going!
-Showing a bit of nostalgia was Shorter who was honored for his 40th anniversary of his win here at Falmouth, which ignited the "Running Boom" on the road race scene in 1975. The 1972 Olympic Marathon champion ran the race in a retro-style Marshfield High School Singlet with the number 13, the same style singlet worn in High School by Shorter's friend and fellow competitor, the late Steve Prefontaine.
- The race starting times were delayed due to a tragic situation. As some of the elite women were warming up a spectator on a bicycle fell over possibly from a heart attack and fell on his head, delaying the start. While some of the runners not knowing of the situation started to get antsy, it didn't deter race director Dave McGillivray and his crew from turning their full attention to the spectator, as ambulances appeared. Later on at the awards ceremony and VIP dinner, McGillvary, who as race director of the Boston Marathon is sadly no stranger to tragic events, explained to all that were present how it's so important to keep things in perspective-"This is a race, an event. But we are dealing a human beings' life". According to my sources it was Sara Hall along with Meb Keflezighi and other elites who reacted right on the spot, not worrying about their warmup but immediately seeking to get help for the victim. While Hall and Meb didn't win the race, one can truly say that they all already acted like a real champion that morning even before toeing the starting line.

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