This is the first of several recollections on the 2022 ASiCS Falmouth Road Race from Senior Writer/East Coast Jeff Benjamin, the mayor of Staten island running.
Jeff Benjamin’s Daily 50th ASICS Falmouth Daily Diary
Day 1 – Friday, August 19th
The Specter Of Tommy Leonard
“He sure was a character!”
That was the recurring theme of many of today’s pre-race get-togethers, where many reminisced about Tommy Leonard.
The big-hearted, garrulous bartender, who turned the adversities in his life into positive forces which influenced many through the running which he cherished, passed away in 2019 at 85 years young. Inspired by Frank Shorter’s 1972 Olympic Marathon Gold, it was Tommy’s ideas that led to the creation of the iconic Falmouth Road Race. Leonard’s legendary creative “badgering” and “soliciting” led to many of America and the World’s best to test themselves on the 7.1-mile challenging course, replete with usually hot weather alongside rolling hills and the steep incline over the last 700 meters of the race.
Amongst those getting together today at both the Runners Expo and later on at the famed Quarterdeck tavern (Where Tommy last tended bar) were 2:10 Greater Boston Track Club runner Bobby Hodge, Litchfield Hills Road Race leaders Billy Neller & Brent “The Hawk” Hawkins, 1976 Steeple Olympian Mike Roche, 2-Time Boston Champion Geoff Smith, announcer extraordinaire Toni Reavis alongside this writer and running compatriots Canadian Gary Rush, Pat McCloskey, and Brian Baker who will be competing in his 44th consecutive Falmouth on Sunday.
In this gathering of runners of all abilities from the last century, where the sharing of old “War Stories” led to fun and laughter, was also the presence of the 1979 Falmouth Champion Craig Virgin, who espoused on Leonard.
“He was so important to the Sport,” said Virgin, a 3-Time Olympian and the only American Male to win the fabled World Cross Country Championships (twice!).
“We still need people like Tommy.”
As the next few days will progress leading up to Sunday’s 50th race, Tommy’s impact continues to be felt. One wonders what the shape of that impact will be going forward.