NB Falmouth Diary, Day5: The Grand Finale of the Falmouth Road Race: Two very different races!

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Sambu_StephenFV-Falmouth17.JPGLeonard Korir finishes just behind 4x winner Stephen Sambu, photo by PhotoRun.net

RunBlogRun comments: This is the fifth and final column by Jeff Benjamin on the 2017 New Balance Falmouth Road Race. We asked Jeff to give us a feel of his daily experiences in Falmouth, plus run the race, plus cover both the Miles and the Road Race.

Over instagram, twitter, FB and yes, runblogrun, we have provided ten views of this long weekend of running.

Today was Tommy Leonard's Day, as the gun went off to begin the 7-mile journey for thousands he envisioned happening 25 years ago. Yet while this was the Gran Finale of Falmouth Road Race weekend, the men's and women's races could not have played out in totally different styles. While the women's race became a solo, the men's race culminated in a dramatic duet!

Women's winner Caroline Chepkoech decided that after a first mile of 5:09, she would be the one to go solo, as she took charge and totally dominated the competition, leading by more than 30 seconds early in the race. "It was quite hot but I felt strong," said Chepkoech, gradually increasing that pace to beat Mary Wacera by a minute, clocking a time of 35:51 to Wacera's American top finish time of 36:53. Diane Nukiri placed third (36:57).


The Men's race turned into the dramatic duel as Stephen Sambu took off after Luis Vargas led the field through a 4:42 first mile and then going through 5K in 14:30. By Mile 4, it was Sambu with Leonard Korir seeming content to just follow the 3-time defending champion.

In a scene reminiscent of the 1982 Boston Alberto Salazar/Dick Beardsley duel, Sambu just continued to lead and then dramatically crossed the finish line holding off the kick of Korir for his historic win and the closest men's race finish in Falmouth history, with both runners timed in 32:14. "I wasn't happy leading the whole way," said Sambu. "Korir was with me the whole way and I was scared he'd get me!" Vargas' brave early frontrunning tactics paid off, as he netted a third place finish (32:53).

As for this writer, the heat and humidity did make it a challenge. Running conservatively behind Scott Samuelson, I remembered the running advice given to me through the years by Rod Dixon, Tom Fleming and Coach Frank "Gags" Gagliano. It was Rodney (1980 Winner) who told me to lean into the hills exaggerating the arms. Tom had told me to always stay relaxed, and Gags said run tall and look 7-8 yards in front.

Using these pearls of wisdom, along with the best crowd support of any non-marathon road race in America, I dug in and just cruised along, being rewarded with a time of 53:01.

Although Sambu and company finished 20 minutes in front, and Joan Benoit Samuelson, running 44:49 at the age of 60 beat me and most of the field easily, a feeling of personal accomplishment was felt, which I'm sure was the prevalent feelings that most of the 12,800 runners felt.

A great finale to America's Greatest hometown race. It's what Tommy Leonard and all the runners and volunteers would have wanted!!

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