Course: This 7-mile race is notoriously as grueling as it is picturesque. There are hills, there is heat, historically there is stifling humidity, and for a couple of miles mid-race there is no cover.
You hit the first gradual hill right out of the gate as you claw your way through the masses erupting like ants from an ant hill from Woods Hole. It’s three miles of rolling hills through the woods with one sun-exposed climb around Nobska Lighthouse. After that you roast in the salty sun for a couple of flat miles before turning left to begin the journey around Falmouth Harbor. As you round the corner the ocean appears on the horizon, and the final left turn opens up into the full sun again along Falmouth Heights Beach. That’s when the final indignity appears: A hill so steep you could almost reach out with your hand and touch the pavement in front of you. If you survive, it’s just a few yards of flat road before your tired legs are launched into a near-freefall down the hill and across the finish line.
Charity: When you go to pick up your number at Falmouth High School the day before the race you’ll notice what a beautiful facility it is – the town makes a lot of money from this race. The money also goes to scholarships, grants for youth athletic programs,
Size: About 12,000 runners. There are so many people in this race that they have to use a pulse-start system to ensure the start is not a horrifying mess. All non-elite runners self-organize behind pace markers in the narrow street behind the starting line. After the initial starts of wheelchair racers at 8:40, elite female runners at 8:50 and elite male runners at 9 a.m., 1,000 or so runners move up to the starting line with the help of a human wall, and every two minutes another starting gun goes off. For a race this size the organizers and volunteers really do an amazing job keeping things running smoothly.
Awards: The ceremony right after the race is only for the overall awards, where you’ll see elite runners and olympians from all over the world receiving cash prizes. The ceremony for age group winners, and Falmouth resident age group winners (which are counted separately) is held in September at The Coonamessett Inn.
Snacks: Yasso frozen yogurt pops, Muscle Milk, Ocean Spray juices, Cape Cod potato chips, cookies, fruit, hot dogs, water.
Swag: At the Health & Fitness Expo where you pick up your number you are given a gift bag with an official race poster, magazine, product samples and other branded swag like rubber bracelets and pens. As you walk around the gym you can pick up more of the same from many vendors, including food and beverage brands. I also got a free body fat measurement, entered a drawing, and bought some electrolyte gummies and a moisture-wicking headband at a discount. You know what’s insane to me though? NO T-SHIRT. If you want one you have to buy one. Registration was $65 and I’m accustomed to getting one for much less expensive races so it seemed weird.
My Thoughts: I grew up visiting my Grammy and Pop-Pop at their house in Falmouth every summer of my life, and I’ve been watching my 65-year-old dad run this race since I was in a stroller. Though I’ve been a runner myself since third grade, this was my first time running Falmouth and my first time running 7 miles.
The event is huge, and the residents and visitors are so excited and supportive of the participants that it’s really an amazing experience to run it. It’s truly a community event. Residents who live along the course stand out with their own hoses offering runners a spray to cool down, some people are handing out pieces of fruit and water they bought themselves (in addition to the official water and Gatorade stops), theres even a live band playing along the beachfront for entertainment! The amount of cheering all along the course (but especially towards the end when you’re really struggling) is just awesome, and it doesn’t stop after the fastest people go by. For me getting to run with so many legends and veterans of this race (most especially my Dad – who I will note BEAT ME BY OVER A MINUTE!!!), as well as with the wheelchair teams who are so inspiring.
I’m on the fence as to whether I will do it again because it was so freakin hard and I stressed about it as I trained all summer, but who knows… I might be hooked.