The main reason the CITIUS MAG team is heading to Cape Cod this weekend is that it’s almost the end of summer and my vitamin D levels are much too low after spending so much time in our well-shaded interview tent in Eugene. But the second is that it’s the 50th running of the iconic Falmouth Road Race and I want to celebrate by dressing up in pastels and cosplaying as a Kennedy.
The story begins in 1972 when a local bartender named Tommy Leonard was watching Frank Shorter win the Olympic marathon and fantasizing about how cool it’d be to get him to come to Falmouth. Inspired by that momentous victory, the American culture surrounding road racing would change dramatically, and the inaugural race in 1973 played an integral part in that new wave.
Finally, in 1975, the plan worked. Frank Shorter actually showed up to the race and beat a famous local, Bill Rodgers — mission accomplished, Tommy, you absolute legend! And despite Frank Shorter eventually retiring from racing, the Falmouth Road Race lived on.
This year, defending champion and international idol Edna Kiplagat will return, but it won’t be easy to win again. Keira D’Amato is fresh off an 8th-place finish at the World Championships. If there are any doubts as to whether or not she is recovered, a 23-mile long run last week has your answer. Bruktayit Eshetu Degefa has won much of the “short course” American road race circuit this season. But if you’re a bettor, then check the odds on Fentyea Belayneh, who is coming off a win at Beach 2 Beacon.
On the men’s side, two-time champ Ben Flanagan returns to the home of his future in-laws in hopes of running well enough to receive a final blessing before tying the knot. Flanagan met his now fiancée at the 2018 race — her father is the President of the event. But you don’t win a historic road race through nepotism — Benny’s a hell of a fighter of seven miles. He’ll face a loaded field that includes 2019 champion Leonard Korir and last year’s runner-up, Biya Simbassa. Wesley Kiptoo has adjusted well to the professional scene as demonstrated by his 1:01 victory at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, but so has former Campbell University standout, Athanas Kioko — who was second at Beach 2 Beacon.
Sadly not included in the race preview is that I am running… again! But this time I won’t be in Saturday’s mile, which I won twice. (It’s not cocky to brag about things that happened a lifetime ago, especially if you are only bringing it up because your relevance is waning.)
Something Falmouth does an excellent job of is weaving together elite athletes and the community. While it is unique to our sport that anyone can “play” alongside the best in the world, someone running 7-minute pace won’t be able to watch any of the professionals, even from a distance after the first mile.
That’s why I am publicly calling for the unification of road races and track events! The general participants of a road race are built-in spectators whose knowledge and appreciation of the elite end of the sport can grow immensely from watching athletes run a 3:52 mile on the track. It’s up close and personal, driving home that speed in a way that losing by 12 minutes in a 7-mile race can’t.
Watch the Falmouth Mile on the CITIUS MAG YouTube channel for FREE on Saturday starting at 4:00 PM. The elite races will begin shortly after 5:00 PM.
The Falmouth Road Race is Sunday starting at 8:40 AM and streamed via NBC Boston 10. Post-race at about 10:00 AM, the CITIUS team will be hosting the After The Final Lap recap show with race winners, pro athletes, and legends of the sport.