RunBlogRun comments: This is the fourth update on the NB Falmouth weekend. Jeff Benjamin has written each day to the big day, Sunday, August 20, 2017. Enjoy his report on Saturday, August 19. We hope you enjoy our coverage of this important New England road race fixture, the New Balance Falmouth Road Race.
Falmouth Day 4 – The Pace is Picking up!
By Jeff Benjamin
It seemed that on this pre-race day things seemed to start out slow but picked up steam at the end.
This morning hundreds gathered near Main St. by the Quaterdeck bar/restaurant to take part in the annual Falmouth walk.
The walk, which raises money for Tommy Leonard’s favorite charities, started with the firing of a cannon which led the walk. Amongst those participating this morning were Frank Shorter and Joan Benoit. Peadaling around all of the morning’s festivities was Richard Sherman, who, along with his wife Kathy and John and Lucia Carroll, made Tommy Leonard’s dream of a road race a reality. “It was Tommy’s brainchild and our baby,” said Sherman, a Fordham track Alum who counted Shorter, a Yale Alum, as one of his competitors.
Later on that afternoon Shorter and Benoit, along with Bill Rodgers, Stephen Sambu, Tatyana McFadden and Diane Nukuri participated in a forum for the expo crowd. Aside from the basic questions about training, day of race routines and diet, all of the legends kept on going on about how much fun it has been to come to Falmouth throughout the years. “Falmouth was the first road race I ran other than a marathon,” said Shorter. “I’d run 7 marathons beginning in 1971 before I came to Falmouth in 1975.”
“1976 was my first Falmouth, said Benoit. “I got into running by watching the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and watching Frank and Bill there.” So excited was Benoit that she then went out for a solitary run late at night along the neighborhood boardwalk. “I must have been crazy to do that by myself, but it all worked out!” Benoit then went on to say that her successful Maine Road Race creation, The Beach to Beacon 10K (Now in its 20th year) was created and modeled after the Falmouth race. “Thank God for Tommy Leonard!”, exclaimed Rodgers of the race creator, a thought which was then echoed by all present.
By late afternoon, hundreds had gathered on the Falmouth High School Track to see the Falmouth Miles. Race Announcers included Andy Downin and John Honerkamp for the high school races, and Tony Reavis for the Elite races.
But first the kids races took place, with Rodgers, Shorter and Benoit giving medals out to the next generation of runners coming down the pike. “You know, that’s what it’s all about,” said Rodgers, as he gave the trademark thumbs up to every kid he saw. “They’re the future!”
Youth was truly served in the boys high school Mile as Fall Soph Mike Griffin clocked a really quick 4:26.08, while Grace Connelly set a new meet record time of 4:56.33. Not bad running by high school athletes no doubt not peaking, as they are probably in their heavy workload of base training.
The elite racers in both the Men’s and Women’s Mile were definitely in their peak season. With no pacesetters and a windy back-straight, both races became tactical but exciting affairs, as the women went through splits of 67, 2:16, and 3:26, which led to an explosive finish by Hannah Fields, who won with a time of 4:28.32.
The men’s race was EXTREMELY tactical as slow splits of 62, 2:03, and 3:05 led to a 55 second last lap led by Craig Engels, who won his first professional race. As Engels said at the earlier press conference, his victory will no doubt lead to a really cool party tonight!
Postscript-As the meet ended and the crowds and athletes left, one of the last people to clean up and make sure the Falmouth High School track was no worse for wear was Falmouth Race Director Dave McGillivray, who definitely has an early day tomorrow.
Upon entering the Quarterdeck for a last pre-race dinner, this writer sat and ate with Tommy Leonard, who, at 84 years young, was staying a little late to greet friends and admirers coming in. Tommy also has an early morning, as Richard Prior will once again be driving him again at the head of the race tomorrow morning, the “Road Racing King for One Day.”