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Joan Benoit

Samuelson in 1985

"Wouldn't it be fantastic if we
could get Frank Shorter to run
in a race on Cape Cod?"

So said a bartender and runner named

Tommy Leonard, in Falmouth Heights,
Massachusetts, back in 1972. Leonard
had just seen the American on TV,
winning the Olympic Marathon in
Munich, and he was transfixed.

The first Falmouth Road Race took place

the following year, with about 100
participants. (As for Shorter, he wouldn’t
run Falmouth until 1975—when he faced
down a kid named Rodgers.)

In the decades that followed, Falmouth

would swell to include thousands of
runners, among them some of the
biggest names in the world of road
racing: Shorter and Rodgers, of course,
but also Benoit Samuelson, Salazar,
Dixon, Waitz... The list went on, and
many of them returned year after year
to test their mettle, and one another, on
the seven-mile course from Woods Hole
to Falmouth Heights Beach.

Forty years in, here are a few of

our favorite memories.

November 1978
THE ROAD” by Amby Burfoot
With Bill Rodgers's first Falmouth victory in 1974 and
Frank Shorter’s 1975 and 1976 wins, a rivalry between
the men emerged. Falmouth caught the attention of
Runner’s World when the 1978 race included 13
sub-four-minute milers, 16 individual NCAA or AAU
champions, and nine Olympians.

Runner’s World cover “Race director John Carroll was…calling it ‘the best
from 1978 (photo by American race field since the 1976 Olympics.’
Don Flanagan) These fellows have been together before in the
Trials and Games, but never in the same race. Bill
Rodgers headed the list, having won the 7.1-mile
Falmouth race the year before in a record 32:23.”

“In all, there were six runners who clawed their way
through the muggy 7.1 miles at under 4:40-per-mile
pace, 18 who were under 4:50, and 41 under 5:00.
Moreover, the course—despite its seaside
countenance—isn’t an easy one. Shorter has called
it ‘a lot tougher than you’d think.’ And Greg
Fredericks, fifth this year, said, ‘It’s hard to say why,
but this course gets to you after three to four

After Rodgers’s third Falmouth victory in 1978, his fame

was cemented.
Craig Virgin, Mike Roche,
Alberto Salazar, and Bill
“So Bill Rodgers remains King of the Roads, though
Rodgers in 1978
his crown is weighing ever more heavily upon him
with speedy track runners taking to the roads in
unprecedented numbers.”
November 1985
CAPE CRUSADERS by Amby Burfoot
Though the men of Falmouth were impressive, it was
the women who captured the spotlight in the
mid-1980s. Known for setting the 1983 course record
with a painfully infected toe, and of course for her gold
medal at the 1984 Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles,
Joan Benoit Samuelson became the standing favorite
woman. She continued to impress at the 1985
Falmouth, when she set another course record.

“Now it was 54 weeks to the day since her Olympic

triumph. Benoit was eager for solid signs of a
rebound. So, as she began the climb up curving
Nobska Lighthouse a mile into the Falmouth race,
Benoit was all eyes and ears. What she saw surely
delighted her—Nobska’s sloping green lawn,
scattered clouds, the rising lushness of Martha’s
Vineyard four miles off her right shoulder, and the
same lapping Atlantic waters that wash into the salt
hay of her backyard in Freeport, Maine. The sounds
were even better. First Benoit noticed that the
trailing footsteps of Lesley Welch and Larrieu Smith
had faded away. She turned her attention to the
mile split and heard 5:07. The magic was back. ‘I
felt totally under control,’ Benoit said later. ‘I was
back in the groove, not breathing hard at all. I don’t
know why it is that my fastest races are always my Joan Benoit
easiest.’” Samuelson in 1985
November 1994
It is almost impossible to ignore the ocean, alive and
inviting, next door to the Falmouth Road Race, and
throughout the years, athletes have been known to take
advantage of the sea. In 1994, Runner’s World reported
on runner-up Arturo Barrios, who spent the weekend
bass fishing on the cape the weekend before the race.

“When he’s not racing, Arturo Barrios likes the

challenge of sport fishing, which makes a weekend
in Cape Cod twice as nice. Barrios landed a couple
of striped bass the day before the race, but couldn’t
reel in what would have been his biggest catch of
the summer—Benson Masya, the killer shark of
road racing in the 7.1-mile Falmouth Road Race.
Barrios settled for a second-place finish. As for
Masya, his main challenges these days seem to
Wheelchair race come from racing the clock. His 31:59 on an
start in 1994 overcast, humid morning left him just seven
seconds shy of the course record he set in 1992.”

November 1997
POINT TO POINT by Bob Wischnia
Runner’s World and Falmouth celebrated the 25th
anniversary of the race, inviting back champions from
years past.

“Seventeen accepted the invitation, and 14 of them

actually ran the 7.1-mile race on August 17. Among
men, 1973 champ David Duba ran 45:01, ‘75 and
’76 champ Frank Shorter 42:01, ‘79 champ Craig
Virgin 45:53, and ’80 champ Rod Dixon 41:45.
Among women…six time champ Joan Benoit
Samuelson [ran] 39:18 (to win the masters

April 1998
HUMAN RACE by Michael Bennett
The Falmouth Road Race is unqiue because of the
unparalleled dedication of those runners who return to
the event year after year. Shorter, Salazar, Rodgers,
and Benoit Samuelson have all come back to the race
at some point, bringing new rivals with them each year.
Having raced 39 consecutive years to date, Ron
Pokraka, Mike Bennett, Brian Salzberg, Don Delinks,
and Tom Brannelly are dubbed the “Falmouth Five.”

“This August, Michael Bennett, Ph.D., will run the

Falmouth Road Race for the 26th consecutive year.
Bennett, 67, is one of only five runners to have run
every Falmouth, a 7.1-mile jaunt from Woods Hole
to Falmouth Heights along the beautiful Massachu-
setts coast. ‘It’s too hot, too humid, and too
crowded, but I’m always ready to run on that day,’
says Bennett. When he lined up for the first
Falmouth in 1973, there were only 92 entrants. Last
year 9,500 signed up. ‘It’s a bit of a zoo, but I keep
From left: Dave Murphy, Rob de coming out because I know the other four 25-year
Castella, and Steve Jones just past runners will be there,’ says Bennett. ‘We're all trying
the six-mile mark in 1985 to outlast each other. Johnny (‘Old John’) Kelley
was one of us until two years ago.’"
August 2001
In Runner’s World’s August 2001 issue, Pam Stone of
Marietta, Georgia, recounted her favorite race:

“More than 9,000 runners lined up for the 28th

annual Falmouth Road Race last August on scenic
Cape Cod. The national anthem played. Helicopters
flew overhead. A few clouds floated in a bright blue
sky. Temperatures hovered in the upper 60s. And I
thought, ‘Wow, this is incredible.’

"Led by dozens of elite runners, the field took off

from Woods Hole, a small fishing town on the
southernmost point of the peninsula. From there we
Start of the 2005 race followed a picturesque 7.1-mile route along the
(above). Masters female Atlantic seacoast. At the one-mile mark, we passed
Colleen De Reuck (far the Nobska Lighthouse, the most prominent
left). Men’s winner landmark on the course. Then we headed into the
Gilbert Okari (left). woods for some short hills before returning along
the coast to Falmouth Heights.

"If you like to travel as I do, this race is definitely

worth a trip. The scenery and spectators made
Falmouth one of the best races I've ever run.”

November 2003
THE BOSTON LEGEND by Amby Burfoot Jennifer Rhines represented the American distance
Bill Rodgers wrote about seeing John Kelley, known for women in her seaside victory, while the American men
running 58 Boston Marathons, at Falmouth in a 2005 fell behind when Kenyans took the top five spots in
Runner’s World story. 2003.

“I met Johnny for the first time at Falmouth in the “American Ace: Jennifer Rhines scored the first
early 1970s...I was probably 26 at the time, and he triumph by an American woman at Falmouth since
was maybe 74. He was standing on the front line, 1994 as Catherine Ndereba and Olga Romanova
too. He was such a fierce competitor, he wanted to unexpectedly dropped out late in the race. John
be sure to get a good start. I'm not as old now as Korir joined Bill Rodgers as a three-time men's
Johnny was then, but I wouldn't dream of getting winner.”
anywhere near the front.”

by Michelle Hamilton
Thirty years after the Falmouth of the 1970s, when
Shorter, Benoit Samuelson, and Rodgers ruled the
distance-running kingdom, the trio returned.

“These hall of famers are the linchpin of the

Falmouth formula. Everyday runners come for the
rare chance to join a heritage that stretches back to
the rise in American distance running in the ’70s
and to line up behind today's top talent...

“This year, the honors fell to the Kenyans. Ndereba

won her fourth Falmouth title in 36:31, and
Women's winner 21-year-old Micah Kogo claimed his first in 31:53.
Catherine Ndereba in
[Meb] Keflezighi, who led the field along with Kogo,
2007 (top). Men's
winner, Micah Kogo, took second in 32:13. (Rodgers, 59, ran in 48:04,
left, Meb Keflezighi, and Benoit Samuelson, 50, placed first in her age
and Nelson Kiplagat. group in 41:56. Shorter? He never wears a chip, so
no one really knows his time.)”
by Steve Rushin
It takes a special personality to create a race with as
much character as Falmouth. In a 2011 Runner's World
profile, Steve Rushin captured the essence of Tommy
Leonard—and the race he founded.

“Tommy used to run the Boston Marathon while

stopping for beers along the route at The Happy
Swallow in Framingham and the Tam O' Shanter in
Brookline, finishing in under four hours while keeping
one eye on his splits and the other on his Schlitz.
And then there was the morning after his senior
prom, when Tommy showed up to run the state high
school track championships wearing his tuxedo
pants and the faint scent of malted beverage. Still,
he managed to finish fifth. ‘I was young and foolish,’
says Tommy, capable of blushing 60 years later. ‘I
didn’t take it seriously.’

“Tommy doesn’t keep score when it comes to beer

and running, having vowed, years ago, never to keep
count of the drinks or the miles, but simply to enjoy
the ride…”

It was his energy and excitement that enticed Bill

Rodgers to the race in 1974, who later convinced
Shorter to race it a year later.

“How did Tommy attract Boston Billy, as the eventual

four-time Boston Marathon champ would come to
be known, across the bay? They were a perfect
match: Rodgers, the free spirit, and Tommy, who
served spirits. In those days, Tommy tended bar on
the night shift and ran early in the morning along the
Charles River. He sometimes ran around the
Chestnut Hill Reservoir, where the Greater Boston
Track Club worked out. He got to know the club's
members, including Rodgers, and invited them to
the Eliot, which quickly became the clubhouse of the
GBTC, and a magnet for Boston runners. In fact, in
1973, the year after he started at the Eliot, Tommy
offered free beer to any marathon finisher bringing in
a bib number. He used a similar carrot on a stick to
get Rodgers to run Falmouth. ‘Tommy promised
there'd be girls in bikinis handing out Gatorade on
the course,’ says Rodgers. ‘There weren’t.’ To make
matters worse,‘the town towed my car.’ Rodgers at
least managed to win the race in a duel with Marty
Liquori and, as champion, had his towing fee paid.”

The record-setting times and elite athletes who travel to

Falmouth are an impressive aspect of the race, but
Leonard encourages runners of every level to love the
sport and run for the fun of racing.

“‘To me, running is about friendship,’ [Tommy] says.

‘It’s boy meets girl. The Falmouth Road Race started
during the Vietnam War. I was fed up with the drug
scene. I thought: Want to get high? Run down to
Falmouth Bay and watch the sun set.’ Tommy
apologizes for tearing up. ‘I’m a mushy, sentimental Tommy Leonard at the dedication of the
new start line (top). Leonard reading an
Irishman,’ he says, waving his hand as if clearing
article from Runner’s World covering the
invisible smoke from the air.” 1982 Falmouth (middle). Leonard’s bar, The
Captain Kidd (bottom).