A recap of every race: by Bill Higgins
The first Falmouth was called a “marathon” but a curious public wasn’t sophisticated enough to get hung up on such details. It was, in fact, 7 miles, perhaps a little less, maybe a little more. No matter, for sure it was a fun run, held on Wednesday, August 15, the 40th birthday of Tommy Leonard. The entry fee was a modest $2. Despite the rainy, windy weather, 98 runners were off and running from the front door of the Captain Kidd in Woods Hole, destination the Brothers 4 in Falmouth Heights. Dave Duba, 21, a college student from Michigan, established himself in Falmouth history as its first champion, winning the race in 39:16. Jenny Taylor of Cambridge captured the women’s division in 47:23. John Carroll served as the starter, timer, and finish-line judge, with able assistance from his wife Lucia. Rich Sherman ran the race, while his wife, Kathy, led the cheerleading on the last hill before the finish. Little did they know then they would be a foursome and together as directors for decades to come. Bill Dougherty, who became the longtime food director, was among the first volunteers and helped organize a memorable post-race party of beer, bologna sandwiches and chowder. “We all ran for the love of the sport and to share each other’s company,” said Leonard. “Afterward, everyone was jammed into the Brothers 4 and singing ‘I believe in music, I believe in love.’ What a beautiful sight. I’ll always remember old Johnny Kelley dancing and jitter-buggin’ all night.” The spirit of the Falmouth Road Race was born.
The field for the second Falmouth jumped to 470. An unknown Boston runner beat world-class track specialist and Olympian Marty Liquori. Media reports called the winner “Will Rogers” and no one was quite sure who he was. However, eight short months later this same runner – now correctly reported as Bill Rodgers – would burst upon the sporting scene by winning the 1975 Boston Marathon. “Boston Billy,” as he was dubbed in media reports, would become a household name. (In the same realm as the humorist Will Rogers.) Rodgers prize for winning Falmouth in 1974 was a blender, but his car was towed. He covered the course in a time of 34:16 and was more than a minute ahead of runner-up Liquori. Debbie Richie, only 15 years old, won the women’s race and shaved almost three minutes off Tuthill’s 1973 time, finishing in 44:31. Her prize was a hair dryer and a bouquet of flowers. Giles Threadgold of Falmouth, a colorful character who was a member of Boston College’s 1949 NCAA championship hockey team, found a unique way to beat the heat on race day. As he approached the harbor, he jumped in, swam across, climbed out and ran to the finish.
This was the year Tommy Leonard’s dream came true as the oft-told story of getting 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter to run in Falmouth became a reality. And the showdown with “Boston Billy” Rodgers —fresh off his Boston Marathon victory a few months earlier — was big news. With the two heavyweights leading the way, the race burst upon the national running scene and a field of 850 (large by 1975 standards) came along to see the shootout of the superstars. And so did the media. A makeshift flatbed wooden trailer, pulled by a pickup truck, was constructed to tow the press along in front of the lead pack. Shorter was still in fine form and got the best of Rodgers, surging near the five-mile mark and cruising to an 11-second victory in a time of 33:24. Jenny Tuthill, Falmouth’s first women’s champion, returned to the winner’s circle with a time of 44:23. The finish line was moved from the top of the hill to the bottom, adjacent to the beach and the ball field. The ’75 race was also notable for Bob Hall’s entry. The 23-year-old from Belmont was Falmouth’s first wheelchair racer. Hall would go on to win eight consecutive Falmouth wheelchair titles and become a leader for the inclusion of disabled athletes in races around the world.
This was Shorter-Rodgers II. The rematch was set and the field exploded to 2,090 entrants as the running boom was in full swing. In the year of America’s Bicentennial, the fourth Falmouth had clearly emerged as one of the top races in the nation. Shorter was at his peak and coming off a silver medal effort in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Rodgers was in his shadow, but also an Olympian and still among the elite. The race proved to be a carbon copy of 1975, with Shorter winning by 11 seconds on a misty, cloudy day. The course record was lowered to 33:13. An 18-year-old up-and-coming Boston-area runner by the name of Alberto Salazar surged near the end and finished an impressive fifth. He would be heard from again. On the women’s side, a diminutive teenager from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, named Joan Benoit won the race in 43:08. She, too, would make her mark again on the roads of Falmouth and the world.
Falmouth continued to grow in size and stature. It was hailed as a genuine world-class event and, in fact, attracted Hillary Tuwei, a native of the running-rich African nation of Kenya. Tuwei didn’t win (he was sixth) but in time his countrymen would reach the podium. A huge throng of 3,500 runners went to the starting line in Woods Hole. This was the first year Perrier sponsored the race and the field was deep and talented. Coming off another Boston Marathon victory, Bill Rodgers, now known as “Maestro of the Macadam,” and “King of the Roads,” was chased by Alberto Salazar for six miles before pulling away to win for the second time and breaking Frank Shorter’s record by 50 seconds. Shorter could only finish fifth. On the women’s side, 1976 Boston Marathon champion Kim Merritt of Racine, Wis., won and shattered Joan Benoit’s course record of the previous year by more than four minutes, running 38:40, faster than Duba won the men’s race in ‘73. Benoit was fifth. Still considered a “people’s race,” Falmouth ’77 included a 6-year-old boy and a blind runner who ran with his hand on a friend’s shoulder.
An amazing 4,000 runners were on hand, and the ’78 edition was called “the best road race ever in the United States at any distance.” The entry list read like a “Who’s Who,” with only Frank Shorter, recovering from foot surgery, missing among the elite. Sports Illustrated sent Kenny Moore to cover the race and the former Olympic marathoner reported it was “the best organized race of this size I’ve ever been in.” With advice from the race medical team, the start time was switched from noon to 10 a.m. to lessen the effect of the heat and humidity, but the racing was still red-hot. Bill Rodgers, in the midst of a streak which saw him win 16 races in two years, including two Boston marathons, two New York City marathons and a pair at Falmouth, was at the top of his game. He outran the star-studded competition and shaved two seconds off his course record (32:21). U.S. Olympic steeplechaser Mike Roche was runner-up, six seconds behind. Alberto Salazar made news again, but this time for collapsing with severe heat stroke at the finish. He was second and chasing Rodgers for about five miles but faded (literally) and wound up 10th. Salazar was in critical condition and received (prematurely) last rites. Doctors quickly submerged him in an ice bath to bring down his body temperature and he recovered in time to attend the awards ceremony. Salazar would have his day in the sun in a couple of years. For the first year, the women’s record stayed intact as Joan Benoit won, but couldn’t eclipse Kim Merritt’s 1977 mark. Records (and other significant accomplishments) would come later for Benoit.
As the decade ended the small fun run of 1973 had now matured into a massive (at the time) 5,000-runner race, and perhaps another 1,000-plus unofficial “bandits” who wanted in on the action. Ponchos, slickers, and umbrellas were the order of the day, as rain sprinkled intermittently over the course. Bill Rodgers was back to defend his title, along with 1978 runner-up Mike Roche. Frank Shorter was also in the field, but it was Craig Virgin who would be the star of stars. Virgin was third in 1978 and vowed to return and win. He made good on his promise in a memorable race won in record time (32:19). Herb Lindsay was second, eight seconds back. Rodgers, Jon Sinclair and Shorter rounded out the top five. (The top three also ran faster than Rodgers ’78 course record). Wellesley’s Ellison Goodall won the women’s race comfortably over runner-up Cathy Twomey and also set a record (38:14), knocking 25 seconds off the previous standard by Kim Merritt in 1977. Falmouth ’79 was notable for welcoming women wheelchair racers and Paralympian swimmer Natalie Bacon took honors.
Fittingly, as the new decade dawned, “The Great American Road Race” would step up and truly become world-class. With boycott of the Moscow Olympics hovering over the sport, Rod Dixon of New Zealand and Grete Waitz of Norway became Falmouth’s first international champions. Defending champions Craig Virgin and Ellison Goodall were out with injuries, and they missed quite a race. Just 19 seconds separated the top five finishers in the men’s division. Dixon pulled away around the harbor and won in 32:20, just a tick off Virgin’s record, and 12 seconds better than Herb Lindsay. Ric Rojas was third with Bob Hodge and Greg Meyer rounding out the top five. Waitz, the most dominant women’s runner in the world and a New York City Marathon champion, cruised to victory and in the process became the first woman to run under 38 minutes (37:12). Jan Merrill (37:56) was fast, too, but no match for Waitz. Judi St. Hilaire, Joan Benoit and Lorraine Moller of New Zealand rounded out the top five. Dave Duba, Falmouth’s first champion, returned to run Falmouth for the first time since his triumphant effort in 1973. The field was limited to 4,000 to make the organization more manageable, and one of the runners was a bald boxer from Brockton, Marvin Hagler. Marvelous Marvin ran in sweat pants and heavy construction boots as a training workout and a month later would win the world middleweight championship.
This was the year Alberto Salazar, the precocious teenager of the 1970s, matured into a champion and became the first runner to crack 32 minutes, winning in 31:55. Pre-race analysis noted that no less than 22 of the top 25 runners in the country were in the field, but none of them could keep up with Salazar who was a comfortable 20 seconds ahead of 1980 champion Rod Dixon. Englishman Mike McLeod was third. In the women’s race, Joan Benoit enhanced her resume as the First Lady of Falmouth by winning for the third time. One of the more inspiring participants in 1981 was Jerry Traylor of West Virginia, who had cerebral palsy and completed the course on crutches. And in 1981 Runner’s World magazine named Falmouth winner of its prestigious Paavo Nurmi Award as the “Best U.S.A. Road Race.” But not all the news was good – for the first time since 1973, the familiar orange Porsche Targa pace car was missing due to repairs.
The 10th anniversary race was one of the fastest to date with four of the top seven best times ever run this year. The winner’s circle didn’t change – Alberto Salazar and Joan Benoit successfully defended their titles – but the course records certainly did. Coming off a victory in the Boston Marathon (the famous “Duel in the Sun when he edged Dick Beardsley), Salazar was in top form. He moved out early in the race and cruised to a record time of 31:53, a mark which would stand into the 1990s. Craig Virgin, on a comeback from a serious kidney ailment, finished a distant second, but still with the third-fastest Falmouth time ever (32:12). Dixon was third and Mike Musyoki of Kenya fourth. Benoit’s fourth Falmouth triumph was her fastest, as she wiped out Grete Waitz’ women’s record by almost 40 seconds, posting a 36:33.7. On a hot, humid day, more than 50 of the nearly 5,000 runners required medical attention, including two for broken legs. For the first time, CBS-TV carried a 17- minute same-day segment on the race, with Frank Shorter doing the commentary work. Ruth Rothfarb, 81, ran and finished and became the race’s oldest woman competitor ever.
This was the year the wave of winners representing the running-rich East African nation of Kenya first rolled onto the shores of Falmouth Heights. Joseph Nzau, who competed at the University of Wyoming, led the way with a winning time of 32:20. Fellow countryman Simeon Kigen was second, seven seconds behind. Gabriel Kamau was seventh. In the women’s race, Joan Benoit made it a three-peat, going wire to wire for her third straight and fifth victory overall. Her effort was all the more remarkable because she raced with a painfully infected toe which required her cutting a hole in her shoe. And still she set another course record (36:21). Marty Ball ended Bob Hall’s dominance in the wheelchair division and Olympic pole vaulting gold medalist Bob Seagram was among the official finishers. But two-time defending champion Alberto Salazar was not. Recovering from bronchitis, he was a spectator on the press truck.
Prize money was officially awarded at Falmouth for the first time, although financial compensation and inducements had long been a part of the running scene. But this year it was above the table, and Dave Murphy of Great Britain and Joan Nesbit of North Carolina stepped forward to claim the $6,000 first prizes. In all, $46,000 was awarded and 5,004 answered the starting gun on a hot, sun-splashed day. Murphy worked hard for the money, overtaking Mark Curp in the last 200 meters to win the closest race ever. It was Curp’s third top-five finish in three years. Nesbit, helped by a new staggered starting system, recorded the fourth-best women’s time at Falmouth with a time 37:12. Lorraine Moller was second. This was an Olympic year and defending champions Joseph Nzau and Joan Benoit were on the sidelines, both recuperating from running marathons in Los Angeles, where Benoit captured the historic first-ever women’s gold medal. (She was also preparing for her fall wedding to Scott Samuelson).
If Dave Murphy snuck up on the field to win in 1984, then this year he returned a marked man as defending champion. But he was just one of many competitors which comprised “the deepest field ever for an American non-marathon race.” Nearly two dozen Olympians went to the starting line. The unheralded Murphy figured to have his hands full, but he was ready, as he methodically ran down the world’s best and won again, this time in the third-fastest time ever (32:02). His two wins put him in the select company of Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, and Alberto Salazar as the only men with back-to-back victories. One by one, would-be winners faded until there was only Murphy and the more-renowned Olympians Steve Jones of Wales and Rob de Castella of Australia remaining with a mile to go. Both Jones and de Castella, two of the fastest marathoners in history, took shots at Murphy, but neither could sustain the pace. It was Murphy who emerged in front at the top of the hill in the stretch and beat Jones by four seconds in a sprint to the finish. De Castella was seven seconds off the pace. The women’s race was another crowning achievement for newly married Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won for the sixth time. She did it in record fashion, too, lowering her own course record to 36:17. Fellow New Englanders Lesley Welch of North Reading and Judi St. Hilaire of Brighton were second and third, respectively, and Dianne Rodgers of New Zealand was fourth.
A new face emerged on the stage, as 23-year-old Arturo Barrios of Boulder, Colo., by way of Mexico City, dominated another deep and talented field to win with relative ease. He made a shambles of the competition by running away from a pack of 12 at the four-mile mark and was never threatened again. Barrios’ win was not unexpected, as he had won every road race leading up to Falmouth, save the Boston Marathon, where he was fifth in his first effort at the distance. Behind Barrios were Barry Smith of England, Mike Musyoki of Kenya and Ed Eyestone, the top American. The men’s field also included the incomparable Henry Rono of Kenya. Now 34, he was past his prime but nonetheless a legend in the sport who, at his peak in 1978, set four world records in a span of only 81 days. The surprise of the day was in the women’s race. Lorraine Moller of New Zealand, second and third in previous races, broke through and upset Joan Benoit to win. Moller had won a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games marathon just three weeks earlier, but obviously still had something left. Marty Cooksey of was second and Lesley Welch third. Benoit could do no better than fourth.
In celebration of the 15th running, an enormous American flag, which had flown at Mount Rushmore, hung above the finish line, but once again the international domination of Falmouth continued. This time, a diminutive Rolando Vera of Ecuador was first under Old Glory as he ruled the roads in a time of 32:19. (On his way to the awards ceremony, Vera stopped to take snapshots of the giant flag). Only 5-1, 108 pounds, Vera performed like a heavyweight as he KO’d the world’s best, winning by a comfortable 18 seconds over runner-up Keith Brantly of Gainesville, Fla. Eight of the top 10 men had passports from locales such as Mexico, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Kenya and Mexico. Aurora Cunha of Portugal was the women’s winner in a quick 36:59. She broke away from Teresa Ornduff and defending champion Lorraine Moller with a mile to go to win in 36:59, marking only the seventh time the 37-minute barrier has been broken on the distaff side. A couple of the prerace favorites, Olympians Joseph Nzau of Kenya and Lisa Martin of Australia, started but didn’t finish. Nzau, the 1983 winner, was last seen trying to hitch a ride from the pace car, which didn’t stop.
Falmouth’s “Sweet Sixteen” race was indeed a sweet one for Mark Curp in particular, and for U.S. road running in general. Curp, one of Falmouth’s most consistent performers over the years, ran down a talented field to win in 32:22. Curp, of Lee’s Summit, Mo., beat Steve Spence of Hanover, Pa., by five seconds. Finishing third was 1987 runner-up, Keith Brantly, of Gainesville, Fla., making it a 1-2-3 sweep for the Americans, the first time that happened at Falmouth since 1979. And overall, seven of the top 10 men were from the U.S. On a warm, sunny day that attracted 5,200 official runners and thousands of spectators, Curp became the first American to win the men’s division since Alberto Salazar in 1982. His victory was particularly satisfying since he came into the race with five top-10 finishes on his Falmouth resume, including a second in 1984, but had never headed the field. The women’s race was all it was cracked up to be, as New Zealander Anne Hannam held off Betty Jo Geiger of North Carolina to win by four seconds in 36:36. Hannam led most of the race, but Geiger sprinted past her in the final stretch. Geiger, however, misjudged the finish line and didn’t have enough left to hold on over the final 200 yards. Joan Samuelson arrived in Woods Hole by boat, missed her warm-up, but still finished fourth. Befitting Falmouth’s established history, the masters’ race drew much attention, as Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter, both now 40 years old, returned to the scene of their stirring duels in the 1970s. Rodgers proved masterful, winning the division in 33:50 and finishing an impressive 23rd overall. His time was 26 seconds faster than in 1974 when, at the age of 26, he won his first Falmouth.
The foreign domination returned this year in a big way, led by newcomer Salvatore Bettiol of Italy and 1987 women’s champion Aurora Cunha of Portugal. Bettiol, running Falmouth for the first time, pulled away from Salvador Garcia of Mexico to win in 32:14. The margin of victory was 13 seconds and Bettiol’s time was the seventh fastest ever, but still well off Alberto Salazar’s record of 31:53.3. Rob de Castella of Australia forced the pace early and finished a strong third with Dionicio Ceron of Mexico fourth. Steve Spence of Boulder, Colo., was fifth and the only American in the top 10, unlike the previous year when Mark Curp led a 1-2-3 sweep for the U.S. Cunha’s victory was her second in as many tries at Falmouth. She won in 1987, but missed the ‘88 race. Her winning time (36:21) was the second-fastest ever by a woman, just off Joan Samuelson’s record run of 36:17.7 in 1985. Former Boston Marathon champ Lisa Weidenbach of Issaquah, Wash., was second in 36:39 and Judi St. Hilaire of Fall River, Mass., third. Jim Knaub of Long Beach, Calif., won the men’s wheelchair race, shattering the course record by 2:07, finishing in 27:13. Anne Walter won the women’s wheelchair division for the third straight year. While the competitors were in high gear, the Mazda Miata pace car was stuck in reverse at the starting line. Race directors John Carroll and Rich Sherman had to push the car off to the side of the road in Woods Hole, and for the first time in the history of the event, they did not see their own race. Two runners, one dressed in a Batman cape and cowl, and another in the white skin, green hair and red grin of the Cape Crusader’s arch-enemy, the Joker, were in the race. Justice prevailed: Batman handily defeated the Joker. Two Falmouth favorites, Ruth Rothfarb, 88, and Johnny Kelley, 81, ran and finished. Kelley was one of a handful who completed all 17 races.
In the closest finish in race history, Salvatore Bettiol outsprinted Ed Eyestone to defend his title. The 30-year-old Italian kicked past Eyestone, of Bountiful, Utah, to win by one second. Eyestone tried to win it wire to wire, leading from the start, and had as much as a 70-yard lead on the pack midway through the race, before Bettiol started to reel him in. Bettiol’s winning time of 32:55 was the slowest since Frank Shorter won in 1976. Aurora Cunha of Portugal also defended her 1989 women’s title and notched her third Falmouth victory in as many tries with a winning time of 36:39. This marked the first time since 1981-82, when Alberto Salazar and Joan Benoit won, that the race had repeating champions in both the men’s and women’s divisions. In another impressive performance, 41-year-old John Campbell of New Zealand finished fourth overall and set a masters’ division record with a time of 33:07, shattering by 43 seconds the old mark held by Bill Rodgers when he won the age group in 1988. Candace Cable set a course record for women wheelchair racers (34:07), while Jim Knaub won the men’s race for the second straight year. Falmouth’s international reputation continued to grow, as a top runner from the Soviet Union competed for the first time. Natalia Bobrova was 13th in the women’s race.
Cool, blustery conditions put a damper on the post-race party, but there was a run on the hot-food tables. The final statistics: an estimated 10,000 hot dogs were served.
Only 24 hours before a devastating hurricane would rip through Cape Cod, hitting Falmouth particularly hard, Steve Kogo took the race by storm and blew away a deep and talented field to win in a breeze. The 30-year-old native of Kenya, by way of Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey and his training base in Boulder, Colo., felt right at home in the oppressive humidity as he won in a time of 32:14, a whopping 38 seconds ahead of runner-up Dionicio Ceron of Mexico. Kogo broke the race open as the field emerged from the wooded section of the course around three miles and was never challenged, although he did have to sidestep a bouncing tire that broke off the press-truck trailer during the race. The media made it to the finish line none the worse for wear. It was quite a turnaround from Kogo’s first Falmouth effort in 1987, when he finished 44th. The women’s race was hotly contested, but in the end Sabrina Dornhoefer of Minneapolis, fresh off winning a gold medal in the 3,000 meters at the Pan American Games in Cuba, won by 16 seconds over Felicidade Sena of Portugal. The wheelchair division saw two course records, as Craig Blanchette beat Louis Antonio in a photo-finish. Candace Cable made a shambles of the women’s wheelchair record she set the year before, finishing 5 minutes, 47 seconds faster than 1990’s time. Laurie Binder became the first woman to win the masters (40 and over) race and place in the open division as well. She was 12th overall. The men’s masters’ winner was Manuel Vera of Mexico. Hurricane Bob landed with fury on Monday and part of the destruction was a portion of the race course along Surf Drive that was washed away. Before the storm hit, race organizers put out a public plea for volunteers to help pack away and secure tents and other equipment, and one of the helpers who came forward was Tom Ansberry of Tucson, who the day before finished third in the race.
This was one for the books: the record books. The 20th running attracted its first winner, David Duba, who returned to find a star-spangled event far different from the one he won in 1973. Rainy, gray skies didn’t dampen the festive atmosphere, and the conditions gave the runners a boost, especially Benson Masya and Lynn Jennings. The weather was perfect for fast times and both longstanding men’s and women’s course records fell. Masya, a former Kenyan boxer, erased Alberto Salazar’s 1982 standard of 31:53.3, running away from countryman Simon Karori to finish in a time of 31:52. On the women’s side, Jennings, who as a high school runner from the central Massachusetts town of Harvard competed in Falmouth against Falmouth High teams coached by race co-director John Carroll, returned to the area and broke Joan Benoit Samuelson’s record. Jennings, of Newmarket, N.H., who a nine days earlier won an Olympic bronze medal in the 10,000 meters in Barcelona (and brought it with her to Falmouth), was in top form as she took the record to 36:13, five seconds faster than Samuelson ran in 1985. The women’s race was one of the fastest ever. Wilma van Onna of Holland was runner-up, with Olga Markova of Russia third, Judi St. Hilaire of Fall River fourth, and Anne Marie Letko of New Jersey fifth, all under 37 minutes. Masya and Jennings each earned $11,000, including $1,000 bonuses for their records. Craig Blanchette of Springfield, Ore., also set a new mark in winning the men’s wheelchair race. Ann Walters won the women’s division for the fourth time. Ruth Rothfarb, now 91, finished another Falmouth. The first Michael Denmark Award for determination and courage was presented to Frank Nero. Denmark, who spent his early years in Falmouth, died in 1992 at the age of 24 of complications from cystic fibrosis, but running helped him lead a productive life. Nero overcame a horrific auto accident, nearly two years of hospitalization and 19 surgeries to run the race.
Before the race, rumors were rampant that a certain recreational runner residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C., might hop over from a Martha’s Vineyard vacation and join the 21st annual parade of 8,000 runners. But President Clinton decided to remain on the island and play golf. That left the stage to an international array of stars and the bright lights were Simon Karori of Kenya and Colleen De Reuck of South Africa. Karori, runner-up the year before when Benson Masya set the course record, sprinted off the Woods Hole starting line and set a pace only countryman and training partner Dominic Kirui could match. Karori’s nickname in Swahili is “Punda,” meaning wild donkey, and he ran appropriately with unbridled abandon. Kirui hung in until there was less than a mile to go, but finally wilted under Karori’s attack. The winning time was 32:20, well off Masya’s record run of 31:52, but the satisfaction of winning – and a $10,000 share of the $80,550 prize-money purse – was enough for Karori. Kirui held on to finish second, and third through six place – separated by only six seconds – were Khalid Kairouani of Morocco, Keith Brantly of Florida, John Treacy of Ireland, and Michael Bilyeu of Oregon. The women’s race went to the South African De Reuck, a 1992 Olympic marathoner who was finally free to compete outside her homeland after years of isolation because of apartheid. “It was all just so lovely,” De Reuck said of Falmouth. And so it was. She raced to victory in 36:42, a comfortable 31 seconds in front of Elena Viazova of Ukraine. Rosanna Munerotto of Italy was third. Prerace favorite Wilma van Onna was fourth. And six-time Falmouth champion Joan Benoit Samuelson finished 13th. Jim Knaub won the men’s wheelchair race for the third time. Ann Walters staked a claim as one of the top performers in the history of Falmouth with her fifth women’s wheelchair victory.
A former champion and a fresh face were the stories this year as Benson Masya of Kenya and Laura Mykytok of Hershey, Pa., shared the winner’s circle. Masya, who won in 1992 and set the record, returned after a year’s hiatus, and was in top form. He made a run at his course mark of 31:52, but settled for victory in 31:59. Arturo Barrios of Mexico, a Falmouth champion in 1986, was runner-up in a strong 32:06. Barrios, who entertained himself over the weekend catching striped bass, couldn’t catch Masya, who joined two-time winner Alberto Salazar as the only men to crack 32 minutes over the demanding course. Mykytok, meanwhile, made her first Falmouth foray a memorable one as she led a blanket finish. The 26-year-old won in 37:01. Right on her heels were Elena Viazova of Ukraine (37:03) and prerace favorite Anne Marie Letko of Atlanta (37:04). It was the closest women’s finish in race history as Mykytok kicked down the final hill to hold off Viazova and Letko, who collapsed and was treated for heat exhaustion. Mustapha Badid of Austin, Texas, set a course record in winning the men’s wheelchair division in 24:41. Rose Winand of Boston won the women’s wheelchair race in 31:01. One of the compelling sidebars to the day was the performance of Jamie LeGeyt of Brewster. The 7-year-old, 42-pound youngster, who was born with spina bifida and paralyzed from the waist down, pushed his 18-pound racing wheelchair over the hills and through the woods. He completed the course in an emotional wave of applause.
Pre-race speculation suggested this might be the year Americans returned to the winner’s circle of what once was dubbed “The Great American Road Race.” Not since 1988, when Mark Curp of Lee’s Summit, Mo., had a U.S. man been first to the tape. However, a funny thing happened on the way to a red-white-and-blue celebration. Well, maybe not so funny. The U.S. men got toasted, again. For the fifth consecutive year a Kenyan won the men’s division; this time it was Joseph Kamau, a 23-year-old Falmouth rookie who won in 32 minutes, 10 seconds, one tick faster than countryman Ibrahim Kinuthia. The top U.S. finisher was Chris Fox of Hagerstown, Md., who ran a gutsy race, but still could do no better than 10th. Todd Williams of Knoxville, Tenn., anointed as a pre-race favorite, was never a factor. On the women’s side, 23-year-old Delilah Asiago became the first Kenyan to win the women’s race, in a time of 36:23. She was a comfortable 34 seconds in front of 1993 Falmouth champion Colleen De Reuck of South Africa. Laura Mykytok of Raleigh, N.C., the 1994 Falmouth winner, was third. In the wheelchair race, 1992 champion Craig Blanchette won the men’s division. Candace Cable came out of a two-year retirement to win the women’s race for the third time. LeAnn Shannon, only 12, of Orange Park, Fla., finished third.
The parade of Kenyans continued and this time they took it to another level, shattering records across the board. The men’s mark fell to the fleet feet of Joseph Kimani, the pre-race pick who lived up to his press clippings. He ran the course in 31:36, smashing Benson Masya’s 1992 standard by 16 seconds. Kimani spotted countryman Peter Githuka what seemed to be a comfortable lead before he ran him down over the last couple of miles. Catherine Ndereba’s performance in winning the women’s race was equally impressive, as the diminutive Kenyan obliterated Lynn Jennings ‘92 course record by 36 seconds, running 35:37. In all, nine of the top 10 men and four of the top six women were from Kenya. A new men’s wheelchair record was also set as Craig Blanchette raced to victory in 24:01. The women’s wheelchair winner was Rose Winand of Boston.
This was a year to celebrate, with the race’s 25th running and it was a grand slam reunion. The first Falmouth champions, David Duba and Jenny (Taylor) Tuthill were back. Irrepressible race founder Tommy Leonard was on hand. And the original directors, John and Lucia Carroll and Kathy and Rich Sherman, were still on the job. After all the pomp and pageantry, the racing was red-hot as the temperature hovered near 90 degrees and high humidity blanketed the course. This assured a tactical race and 26-year-old Khalid Khannouchi of Morocco topped the largest field ever (9,558) in a still-quick time of 31:58. Khannouchi’s win also marked the first time since 1990, when Italy’s Salvatore Bettiol won, that a Kenyan was not in the, winner’s circle. But they did finish second through eighth. The women’s race went to 1993 champion Colleen De Reuck, a native of Durban, South Africa. She was six seconds better than ’95 champion Delilah Asiago of Kenya. Craig Blanchette continued his annual assault on the wheelchair course record, winning for the fifth time in 23:54, bettering his own mark by seven seconds. The women’s wheelchair race was topped Candace Cable for the fourth time. Joan Benoit Samuelson, a six-time champion in the open division, was back for the first time as a 40-year-old master and the results were familiar: she won. The “Falmouth Five” continued to streak. Tom Brannelly Jr., Don Delinks, Ron Pokraka, Mike Bennett and Brian Salzberg, part of the first Falmouth 25 years before, all ran and all finished again.
In a finish reminiscent of his victory a year before, Moroccan Khalid Khannouchi blistered the field over the final mile to make it two wins in a row. His time of 31:48 was the third fastest in race history and he won by five seconds over John Korir of Kenya. In the eagerly awaited women’s race, two-time champion Colleen De Reuck of South Africa faced off against ‘96 champion Catherine Ndereba of Kenya. Ndereba skipped the 1997 race after giving birth to daughter Jane, but she proved fit and fast and ran away from De Reuck in a time of 36:10, third fastest in race history. Joan Benoit Samuelson won the women’s masters for the second straight year and in the men’s masters, Steve Plasencia and Keith Anderson crossed the line together, but officials granted the win to Plasencia. In the wheelchair divisions, it was the dominant duo again at the head of the pack as Craig Blanchette and Candace Cable breezed to wins. It was Cable’s fifth title and Blanchette’s sixth time. In a special winner-take-all 50-and-over race, three-time champion Bill Rodgers got the better of two-time winner Frank Shorter.
The final Falmouth of the 20th century proved to be an appropriate bookend to the first Falmouth 26 years before, when David Duba, the college kid from Michigan, won the maiden voyage from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights. That first Falmouth in 1973 was memorable for the heavy downpours that drenched everyone and it hadn’t rained like that on a Falmouth Road Race since – until 1999. Torrential rain, leaving puddles ankle-deep for some runners, swamped the course, but still about 9,000 answered the starter’s bugle. And despite the miserable conditions, it was a marvelous day for Kenyans John Korir and Catherine Ndereba. Korir dethroned two-time champion Khalid Khannouchi of Morocco, winning a downhill sprint to the finish. Korir, second to Khannouchi in 1998, denied Khannouchi his bid to become the first man to win the open division three years in a row. Ndereba won the women’s division for the second straight year and the third time in four years. The wheelchair athletes had a particularly tough time in the sloppy conditions, making the winning efforts of 45-year-old Candace Cable and Keith Davis all the more remarkable. For Cable, it was her sixth victory.
Falmouth’s first race in the new century and a glorious day greeted the 9,500 runners in Woods Hole, a complete reversal of the Monsoon of ‘99. A couple of newcomers arrived to take on several past champions and proved that they were worthy. Mark Yatich, a relatively unknown 24-year-old Kenyan, upset course record holder Joseph Kimani, two-time champion Khalid Khannouchi of Morocco, 1999 winner John Korir, ‘95 champ Joseph Kamau, and 1993 victor Simon Karori. Lornah Kiplagat, a Kenyan with several world-best times but a new face in Falmouth, knocked off three-time defending women’s champion and reigning Boston Marathon queen Catherine Ndereba with an impressive course record of 35:02, 35 seconds better than Ndereba’s old mark. Natalie Nalepa of Austin, Texas led a strong American effort with a sixth-place time of 36:56. Popular “local favorite” Judi St. Hilaire of Somerset, Mass., returned to her old haunt as a master, besting the over-40 women and placing 10th overall for a “triple-dip” into the prize money—open, American, and masters. Perennial wheelchair participant Harrilyn Beehner, 53, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., broke through for her first Falmouth victory, while seven-time men’s champ Craig Blanchette cruised to victory in 26:53, almost five minutes faster than the first runner.
On a windy, humid day that sapped speed and strength from most of the 9,700 runners, John Korir proved the fittest and the fastest, but not before Shadrack Hoff made things interesting. Korir, who won the ‘99 race in driving rain, ruled the roads this time in stifling heat. Hoff went to the front early, tried gamely to run away from the field, but couldn’t hold off the pack. Korir, a 25-year-old Kenyan, waited patiently until the final mile to assume control and then used his champion’s experience to beat South African Hoff by one second. Korir’s winning time (32:26) was the slowest since 1993, but it was one of the most competitive races in history, with only four seconds separating the top three. Gilbert Koech, 39, of Kenya, was third. The top American was Dan Browne of Colorado in 12th place. As usual, the Kenyans dominated, sweeping nine of the top 10 positions. And it was more of the same in the women’s race, led by Lornah Kiplagat, who successfully defended her crown, beating three-time champion Catherine Ndereba by a comfortable eight seconds. Kristin Chisum of Wayland, Mass., was the top U.S. woman, seventh overall. The wheelchair titles went to Kamel Ayari of New Rochelle, N.Y. and defending champ Harrilyn Beehner of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The field also included hometown hero Colleen Coyne, who made her reputation on ice in the winter as a member of the 1998 gold medal-winning U.S. women’s ice hockey team at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
The 30th running was a parade of nations, led, of course, by the Kenyans as James Koskei and Lornah Kiplagat carried the flag of their African nation with honor. They raced to impressive victories, taking the top cash from the $112,000 prize package, one of the most lucrative non-marathon purses in the sport. Kenyan men have won 10 of the last 12 Falmouths, while a Kenyan has won the women’s division in seven of the last eight years. Koskei pulled away from defending champion John Korir to win by three seconds in 32:10. Moroccan-born Khalid Khannouchi, the world record holder in the marathon and now an American citizen living in Ossining, N.Y., was third, four seconds off the pace. William Kiptum of Kenya and Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa rounded out the top five. The incomparable Kiplagat won the women’s race for the third consecutive year, with three-time champion Catherine Ndereba of Kenya runner-up for the third straight time. Kiplagat ran a fast 35:13, only 11 seconds off her course record set in 2000, and she joined six-time winner Joan Benoit Samuelson as the only three-peat champion in race history. Tony Nogueira topped the wheelchair races with one of the fastest times in history, 25:20, while 18-year-old Jessica Galli took her first women’s title with a speedy 31:40. The 30th running turned into a reunion of grand champions, as past winners Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, Rod Dixon, Alberto Salazar and Joan Samuelson were all on hand. Only Salazar didn’t run, opting to ride on the press truck as a TV commentator. Gov. Jane Swift proclaimed the day Falmouth Road Race Day in Massachusetts. The spirit of the event was embodied by the effort of Ron Pokraka, one of only five to compete in all 30 Falmouths. Recovering from two hip replacement surgeries since the 2001 race, he nonetheless was at the starting line and kept his record intact by completing the course walking with canes.
The 31st running was a campaign of shock and awe; shock on account of the heat and humidity catching even the most highly trained elite athletes off guard and awe as spectators and runners were treated to a B-2 Stealth Bomber flyover at just over 1000 feet above the race course. In addition, spectators were treated to the first American woman to win since 1994. Jennifer Rhines’ victory became a matter of attrition as Catherine Ndereba suddenly and unexpectedly dropped out of the race at 5.5 miles and Olga Romanova, a mere 200 yards from victory literally dropped due to heat exhaustion. With Romanova and Ndereba out, Rhines claimed the victory in 37:08. The runner-up was Alevtina Ivanova of Russia followed by two-time champ Colleen De Reuck, a South African native now a U.S citizen. On the men’s side, John Korir of Kenya joined Bill Rodgers as the only three-time men’s winner. Korir cruised ahead of runner-up Paul Koech, also of Kenya, to take the victory in 31:59. Rounding out the Kenyan domination was the 2002 Falmouth champion James Koskei, Wilson Kigen Kipkemboie and Augustus Kavutu. Both the men’s and women’s wheelchair champions of 2003 made it two in a row as Tony Nogueira of Glen Ridge, N.J. defended his title and Jessica Galli of Hillsborough, N.J. rolled to the winner’s circle. The race also continued to make its mark in the community. Nearly three dozen non-profit groups, benefiting a wide variety of causes, combined to raise more than $350,000 by awarding pre-approved entries to runners, who in turn solicited donations for the charities.
Gilbert Okari, fresh off blowing out candles to celebrate his 26th birthday a few days earlier, blew away a world-class field to win the 32nd Falmouth with a record-shattering performance. On a day with perfect conditions – low humidity, coolish temperatures and a favoring breeze – the long-legged Kenyan ran the course in a scorching 31 minutes, 8 seconds, obliterating Joseph Kimani’s long-standing mark of 31:36, set in 1996. Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya was second in a quick but distant 31:37 – still the third fastest time ever. Defending champion John Korir, bidding to become the first four-time winner of the men’s open division, was third. Ironically, his 31:43 clocking was faster than any of his three winning times. Okari settled the issue early. With long, loping strides – at 6-foot-1 he is nearly a foot taller than some of his compatriots – he went through the first mile at Nobska Light in a blistering 4:23 and didn’t back off. The knockout punch came when he ran a 4:16 fourth mile. In the women’s race, Alvetina Ivanova of Russia, runner-up in 1993, was the winner this time, going wire-to-wire to beat U.S. Olympians Kate O’Neill of Milton, Mass., and Elva Dryer of Albuquerque, N.M. Ivanova’s time of 36:13 was well off Lornah Kiplagat’s course record of 35:02, but comfortably ahead of O’Neill. Dryer was third. Tony Nogueria won his third straight men’s wheelchair title. April Coughlin, women’s runner-up the past two years, broke through with her first victory. Befitting Falmouth’s status as an all-star event, three former Olympic gold medalists were in the field: Frank Shorter, marathon 1972, Joan Benoit Samuelson, marathon in 1984, and Valentina Yegorova of Russia 1992 marathon.
It was a return to the scenes of their times for Gilbert Okari and Lornah Kiplagat. Okari made it two-for-two, backing up his 2004 triumph with another victory. His winning time of 31:59 was 51 seconds off his record from a year ago, but oppressive humidity slowed the field and made finishing first foremost for Okari. As he did a year earlier, Okari was at the front from the start and dictated the pace. Wilson Kiprotich finished second with Falmouth favorite John Korir, a three-time champion, third for the second straight year. Kiplagat, a native of Kenya but now a citizen of the Netherlands, won her fourth women’s title, dethroning ’04 champion Alevtina Ivanova, who finished second. American Deena Kastor, 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist, was third. The wheelchair winners were familiar faces: Tony Nogueria for the fourth year in a row and April Coughlin for the second straight year row. The day also featured a marriage proposal, proving Falmouth attracts competitors who are in it for the long run away from the roads, too. A young man with a hand-drawn sign – “Will you marry me?’’ – jumped onto the course around the six-mile mark and popped the question to his sweat-soaked girlfriend. She paused long enough from her race to answer “Yes!” She then proceeded to reportedly run the fastest mile of her life to the finish line and, presumably, soon after to the altar. In the masters division, the popular Colleen De Reuck cashed a trifecta ticket by winning the women’s race, finishing as the second American overall and earning a top-10 overall placing at seventh.
Gilbert Okari had shown in winning in ’04 and ’05 that he is nothing if not a front runner. So when the field on this day was ambling along at a relative pedestrian pace (4:41 first mile, 4:43 second), Okari could linger no longer. The 28-year-old champion lowered the boom, leveling everyone who harbored hopes of victory. The end result was Okari romping to his third consecutive victory, beating Tom Nyariki. Okari’s winning time was 31:53. Nyariki, who the week before beat Okari to win the Beach to Beacon 10K in Maine, was eight seconds back. John Korir was third again (his ninth straight finish in the top five). Okari joined Korir and Bill Rodgers in a select club of three-time men’s champions, but he stands alone as the only man to win three in a row. In the women’s race, Alevtina Ivanova of Russia dominated and won for the second time in three years. Her time of 35:43 was the fourth fastest time in race history. Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, a former three-time winner, was second. Under the umbrella of CIGNA’s principal sponsorship for the first time, the race went off without a hitch. Impressive flyovers by two F-15 fighters and a Coast Guard Falcon jet sent the runners on their way in ideal conditions. Karen Rohan, president of two of CIGNA’s divisions, and instrumental in the deal to sponsor the race, ran for the ninth straight year and had a personal-best time of 51 minutes. Patrick Doak upset four-time winner Tony Nogueria to win the men’s wheelchair race. The women’s winner was Mina Mojtahedi of Finland. The “golden oldies” returned and Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson (a total of 11 Falmouth titles between them) were as popular as ever.
With three-time champion Gilbert Okari sidelined with an injury, the 35th celebration presented the real possibility of a U.S. men’s champion for the first time since Mark Curp in 1988. Athens Olympics marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi, a native of Eritrea who became a U.S. citizen in 1988 and went on to an All-American career at UCLA, was a strong prerace contender. But Kenyans can never be taken lightly at Falmouth – they had won 14 of the last 16 races from Woods Hole to the Heights – and this time around young newcomer Micah Kogo was the intriguing entrant to watch. The 21-year-old came into town fresh off the track in Stockholm, Sweden, and with a résumé that included one of the fastest 10,000 meters of the year (26:35), his speed and fitness were formidable. The race proved to be one of the more entertaining and competitive in recent memory as Keflezighi, also in the race for the first time, and Kogo hammered away for six miles. Finally, Kogo’s relentless pace wore down the gutsy Keflezighi and he pulled away in the final mile to win in 31:53 seconds. Keflezighi was the runner-up in 32:13. While the men’s division featured Falmouth “rookies,” the women’s stage belonged to an old favorite. Catherine Ndereba of Kenya knocked off prerace favorite Luminita Talpos of Romania to claim her fourth crown – and first since 1999. The 35-year-old Ndereba, like Keflezighi the 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist, ran 36:31, nine seconds ahead of Talpos. Milton native Kate O’Neill, who first ran Falmouth as a young teen, was third and the first U.S. woman in 36:52. Patrick Doak successfully defended his men’s wheelchair title. Jessica Galli won the women’s wheelchair race for the third time. Joan Benoit Samuelson, 50, had another strong race, finishing as the third master and first senior, and former champs Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter, both 59, ran again.
Ethiopia has a rich distance running heritage – think Abebe Bikila running barefoot to win the Olympic Marathon in Rome in 1960, and then another gold medal at the 1964 Games in Tokyo. But in the long history of Falmouth, an Ethiopian was never first to the finish line at the Heights. That would change this year when precocious 20-year-old Tadese Tola of Addis Ababa nearly went wire to wire to plant his country’s flag in the pantheon of champions. The story was told of Tola talking in his sleep the night before the race. He was heard to say “I am number one.” And indeed he was, as he dismantled a world-class field. Tola’s winning time was 32 minutes, 1 second, and his victory broke the stranglehold of the Kenyans, who had won the nine previous men’s divisions and 15 of 17. American favorite Meb Keflezighi of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., was hoping to become the first U.S. citizen to win since Mark Curp in 1988. But like the year before, Keflezighi ran a spirited race, only to finish second once again, eight seconds behind off the pace. Tola’s triumph was impressive, but the story of the day was 41-year-old Kenyan wonder woman Edith Masai, who ruled the open division. She became first 40-and-over to win at Falmouth, and earned a $12,500 windfall – $10,000 for the victory and $2,500 as the masters champ. Masai’s experience – she has plenty of that – beat back challenges from Russia’s Lyudmila Biktasheva, Kenya’s Angelina Mutuku, Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska and Renee Metivier Baillie of Flagstaff, Ariz. Masai waited until the final mile to make her move, and out-kicked her challengers in 37:02, three seconds better than runner-up Biktasheva. Mutuku was third in 37:02. First-time wheelchair entrant Krige Schabort did his homework, scouting out the course on the day before the race, and then used that knowledge to win in a course-record time of 23:35. Jacqui Kapinowski of Point Pleasant, N.J., won the women’s wheelchair division.
Tadese Tola cracked open the door the year before, becoming the first Ethiopian men’s champion, and this time around it was countryman Tilahun Regassa who marched through. Then Mamitu Daska made it a doubly historic day, becoming the first Ethiopian woman to win. Regassa turned the men’s race into a one-man seven-mile jaunt. All of 19 years old, and virtually unknown to many of the elite challengers, he burst off the starting line and never looked back. He ran a 4:22 first mile and was eight seconds clear of the pack by the time he crested the hill at Nobska Light. His winning time of 31:41 was the fastest since Kenyan Gilbert Okari’s record-setting performance of 31:08 in 2004, and the second-fastest in 13 years. The women’s race wasn’t much different, as Daska pulled away from the pack in the third mile and coasted to an easy victory. Her winning time of 36:23 was a whopping 51 seconds in front of second-place finisher Rebecca Donaghue, a UMass Amherst grad from Stowe, Mass. In the wheelchair division, Krige Schabort followed up his ’08 win with another victory. Jessica Galli won the women’s race for the fourth time. Bill Rodgers, now 61, was the winner of the veterans class, making him a four-star champion (open, masters, senior, veterans).
Thrice is nice … three-peat … trifecta. By any name or measure, Ethiopia ruled the roads again in 2010, as “rookie” Gebre Gebremariam made his first trip to town a memorable one. Gebremariam outkicked Wilson Kwambai Chebet of Kenya, beating him to the finish line tape by just one second to mark the third straight year an Ethiopian was in the winner’s circle. Gebremariam made a splash earlier in the summer with an impressive victory at the Peachtree 10K in Atlanta. He stamped himself the Falmouth favorite by winning the Beach to Beacon 10K in Maine a week before arriving on Cape Cod and then lived up to his billing, taking Falmouth’s $10,000 first-place prize with a time of 32:20. Ed Moran, who forced the early pace, was fifth overall and the first American. Moran had a busy weekend as he ran the Falmouth Mile the night before, clocking 4:02.03. In the women’s race, Wude Ayalew Yimer would make it a clean sweep for Ethiopia as she upset prerace favorite Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya, winning in 35:46. Chepkurui had beaten Yimer the week before in Maine, but Yimer went to school on that race and learned her lessons well. Colleen De Reuck was the top American and fifth overall. She was also the winner of the masters division. Four-time Falmouth champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist Catherine Ndereba was fourth. Six-time Falmouth winner and 1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson was a popular presence once again, drawing loud applause when she finished. Two more golden oldies – former champions Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter – also were on hand and finished. In the wheelchair division, 42-year-old Craig Blanchette of Olympia, Wash., came out of a four-year retirement at the urging of his sons to win his eighth crown. Jessica Galli, 26, of Savoy, Ill., won the women’s wheelchair race for the fifth time. The legendary father-son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt celebrated their 31st Falmouth finish in 66:51. Dick pushes Rick, a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, in a specially designed wheelchair. Race founder Tommy Leonard was on hand for his 77th birthday. Falmouth 2010 would mark the final year of CIGNA’s five-year run as title sponsor.
On a day when Kenya returned to victory lane in the men’s race for the first time since 2007, the star of the show was Polish-born Magdalena Lewy Boulet, who hit the jackpot with her winning performance in the women’s division. Lewy Boulet, 38, earned her United States citizenship on 9/11/2001 and went on to represent the U.S. in the marathon at the 2008 Olympics. Competing at Falmouth for the first time, she was first to the finish line and the first American woman to win since Jen Rhines in 2003. Falmouth 2011 marked the first year for New Balance as title sponsor after three years as a footwear and apparel supporter. Their financial commitment allowed the race committee to double the payout to U.S. runners and match the prize purse for the open division. Also, directors Rich and Kathy Sherman and John and Lucia Carroll, at the helm since the first race in 1973, stepped aside and technology manager Matt Augur served as acting director. Lewy Boulet took home $20,000 – $10,000 for winning the open race and $10,000 more as the U.S. winner. A late surge broke things open and Lewy Boulet won in 36:58. Diane Nukuri-Johnson was second (37:13) with four-time champion Catherine Ndereba (37:24) third. The men’s race proved to be a two-man duel between Kenyans Micah Kogo and Lucas Rotich. A week earlier at the Beach to Beacon 10K in Maine, Kogo held off Rotich to win. The tables turned this time, as Rotich surged over the final quarter-mile to beat Kogo, the 2007 Falmouth winner, by four seconds. Rotich’s winning time of 31:37 was the third fastest ever and the fastest winning time since 2004, when Gilbert Okari set the course record (31:08). It was also the first victory by a Kenyan after three straight triumphs by Ethiopian runners. Rotich’s victory was worth $10,000, but fourth-place finisher Brian Olinger of Columbus, Ohio was the cash champion. He collected a total of $11,500 – $10,000 as the first American and $1,500 for his finish in the open race. Krige Schabort of Cedartown, Ga., won the men’s wheelchair race for the third time. Jessica Galli of Savoy, Ill., won the women’s race for the sixth time.
On a day that dawned with flooding rains and then gave way to heavy humidity, Kenya’s Stanley Biwot and Margaret Wangari proved freshest and fastest – and champions. The early downpours didn’t dampen the spirit of some 11,000 runners who gathered for the 40th anniversary race. The celebration was a festive reunion. Race founder Tommy Leonard was on hand at the newly named Tommy Leonard Start Line at the Captain Kidd Restaurant. Two-time champion Frank Shorter was the official starter, sending the runners off 40 years to the day after he won the Olympic marathon in Munich. He then jumped in to run, along with golden oldies and former champs Bill Rodgers, Rod Dixon and Joan Benoit Samuelson. Biwot, coming off a victory the week before at the Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, made it a New England double. He sprinted to a 31:59 finish, with 2011 runner-up Lucas Rotich second again and Stephen Kipkosgei-Kibet third, highlighting a top-six finish by Kenyans. In the women’s race, Margaret Wangari was a Falmouth rookie but anything but a novice. Left off the Kenyan Olympic team for the London Games, she turned her attention to the U.S. roads and Falmouth was another jewel in her crown. Wangari outkicked Emily Chebet of Kenya to win by three seconds in 36:54. The 2010 champion, Wude Ayalew, of Ethiopia, was third. In the wheelchair races, Krige Schabort Cedartown, Ga., won for the fourth time. The night before, he also won the Falmouth Mile at the high school. The women’s wheelchair champion was 19-year-old newcomer Jill Moore of Champaign, Ill., who also doubled up by winning the mile race. In a nice touch to Falmouth’s proud history, former champion and U.S. Olympian Craig Virgin was at the finish line to hold the break tape for Biwot and Wangari. Past chair champion and course record holder Candace Cable did the honors for Schabort and Moore. NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who has family in Falmouth, ran the race while tethered to a treadmill aboard the orbiting International Space Station. A satellite hookup beamed her image to a video screen at the finish line. This was also the first year Dave McGillivray, the well-known endurance athlete and director of the Boston Marathon, took over as Falmouth’s director, ably assisted by some 2,000 volunteers.
On a postcard-perfect morning of blue skies and low humidity, more than 11,000 runners convened in Woods Hole and sang “Happy Birthday” to race founder Tommy Leonard, who was celebrating his 80 birthday. Jeff Bauman, a Boston Marathon bombing victim and survivor, was the official race starter, and when the racing began Micah Kogo and Joyce Chepkirui were the centers of attention. American Ben Bruce of Arizona took the men’s lead pack through the first mile and led the four-mile mark, when Kogo and Ben True of Hanover, N.H., closed the gap. It was a nail-biter to the finish and Kogo (32:10) edged True by two seconds. Kenyan Emmanuel Mutai was third with Abdi Abdirahman fourth and Bruce fifth. The women’s race featured a separate start for the first time and Chepkirui took control and never relinquished the lead. She won in 36:43, well ahead of Great Britain’s Gemma Steel, who was second by a second over Linet Masai of Kenya. In the wheelchair race, Krige Schabort claimed his fifth title. Defending champion Jill Moore won the women’s chair raced again.
The 40th anniversary of wheelchair racing at Falmouth was celebrated this year and James Senbeta and Tatyana McFadden marked the occasion with victories and a pair of course records. In the men’s open division, Stephen Sambu of Kenya demolished the field with a 45-second victory, the second-largest in history. Sambu came in with the fastest 10K time in the world (27:25) in 2014 and indeed proved fleet of feet. The race was runner-up went to 2013 champion Micah Kogo of Kenya. The women’s race was a much more spirited contest but in the end, Betsy Saina of Kenya prevailed over Gemma Steel of Great Britain, second for the second straight year. Saina ran 35:56 with Steel seven seconds back. American Molly Huddle was third in 36:15, only two seconds off the fastest-ever time by an American woman here, Lynn Jennings’ 36.13 in 1992. Dick and Rick Hoyt marked their 35th consecutive Falmouth with another inspiring finish. In the wheelchair events, Senbeta improved on a sixth-place finish in 2012 and a runner-up spot in 2013 by beating defending champion and five-time winner Krige Schabort. Senbeta’s winning time of 23:32 also broke Schabort course record. The decorated McFadden made her Falmouth debut memorable. The three-time Paralympic gold medalist, who in 2013 became the only athlete to win the marathon grand slam (London, Boston, Chicago and New York) finished in a record 27:06, shattering the best of Candace Cable (28:20) set way back in 1991. Reigning Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi, protecting a balky hamstring, chose to run for fun and enjoyed himself. He started out with race director Dave McGillivray, finished with Joan Samuelson in 43:32, and then doubled back to cross the line again with McGillivray.
The countdown was on this year and it was a doubly thrilling finish for Stephen Sambu of Kenya, who outsprinted countrymen Micah Kogo and Leonard Korir to defend his title. Sambu also beat the clock to win the inaugural edition of “The Countdown” over women’s winner Diane Nukuri of Burundi as Nukuri watched anxiously at the finish line. Sambu pocketed $8,000 and an additional $5,000 countdown bonus for breaking the tape a rounded-up three seconds before the scoreboard clock, which started the moment Nukuri hit the finish line and counted down a 4:28 gap, established by averaging the difference between the winning men’s and women’s times from the past 10 years. Sambu won in 32:17 and became the first man to repeat as champion since Gilbert Okari won his third straight in 2006. Kogo was second, two seconds back, and Korir three seconds behind in third. The top American, fourth overall, was Sam Chelanga of Tucson, Ariz., who was sworn in as a U.S. citizen two days before the race. The Burundi-born Nukuri, who lives and trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., won in 36:47, with Sara Hall, also of Flagstaff, the runner-up and first American in 37:10. Third was Sentayehu Ejigu of Ethiopia. Defending their wheelchair titles were Tatyana McFadden in 26:27 and James Senbeta in 24:32. McFadden’s time smashed her course record of 27:06 set in her debut last year.
It was the Stephen Sambu show … again. He won for the third straight year to become just the second three-time men’s champion, joining fellow Kenyan Gilbert Okari (2004-2006). The only disappointment for Sambu was he didn’t repeat as winner of “The Countdown,” a beat-the-clock challenge between the men’s and women’s divisions in which a clock begins as soon as the first woman crosses the finish line, counting down a predetermined gap based on 10 years’ times between the top man and top woman. This year the time was set at 4 minutes, 30 seconds and the clock struck zero as Sambu sprinted down the hill to the finish, bringing a wide smile from women’s champion Caroline Chepkoech. Competing here for the first time, she won $10,000 for her victory and an extra $5,000 for prevailing in the countdown. In the men’s race, Sambu forced the pace just after three miles and by mile five broke Chelanga and Korir. Sambu won by 25 seconds in 32:10. Korir, who arrived in Falmouth straight from the 10,000 meters at the Olympics in Brazil, was second and Chelanga third. On the women’s side, 2014 champion Betsy Saina, who nine days earlier was fifth in the 10,000 meters at the Rio Games, controlled the early pace in a pack that included Chepkoech and defending champion Diane Nukuri. But then the 22-year-old Chepkoech took over, surging just after the four-mile mark and it was soon all over but the cheering. Chepkoech’s winning time was 36:25, comfortably ahead of runner-up Saina (36:52) and Nukuri (36:59). Aliphine Tuliamuk of Santa Fe, N.M., was fourth and the top American. In the wheelchair race, two-time Paralympian Tony Nogueira captured his fifth win and first since 2005. For the women, 19-year-old newcomer Yen Hoang, a 2014 U.S. Paralympics High School All-American, was the winner. Madelyn Wilson, a 7-year- old from Spencer, Mass., was an inspiring finisher. Joan Samuelson, 59, running on the 40th anniversary of her first Falmouth victory and despite a sore knee, won her age group for the 10th consecutive year.
In the closest finish in history, defending champion Stephen Sambu of Kenya leaned first to the tape to edge Leonard Korir of Fort Carson, Colo., to become the first male runner to win this race four times. Both men were given the same time of 32:14. Also defending her title was Kenya’s Caroline Chepkoech, who had an easier time of it. Her time of 35:53 was a full minute ahead of runner-up Mary Wacera of Kenya, the widest margin of victory on the women’s side since 1982. Sambu and Chepkoech each earned $10,000 and Chepkoech—for the second straight year—also added a $5000 bonus as winner of The Countdown. Chepkoech easily beat the clock and Sambu against a time gap of 4:33. Making some history of his own was 19-year-old Daniel Romanchuk, whose 23:16 victory in the wheelchair division broke the course record of 23:32 set by James Senbeta in 2014. He battled it out with runner-up Krige Schabort until taking the lead at the top of the final hill. Winning for the third time in the women’s wheelchair division was 17-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden, in 27:36.
This was a day to rewrite history, as Ben Flanagan of Canada became the first man from North America to win in 30 years and Caroline Chepkoech of Kenya became the first woman to win three in a row since course record-holder Lornah Kiplagat in 2002. A rookie on the pro circuit, Flanagan denied Stephen Sambu a fifth-consecutive title when he jumped across the line in 32:21, followed closely by Americans Scott Fauble (32:23) and Leonard Korir (32:28). Sambu was fourth and Martin Hehir fifth (32:38) to put three Americans in the top five. Flanagan is the first men’s champion from North America since Missouri’s Mark Curp in 1988. A graduate student at the University of Michigan, Flanagan he planned to pay for his final semester with his earnings: $10,000 for the win, plus $5,000 for prevailing in “The Countdown.” Chepkoech again dominated the women’s race as she pulled away from compatriots Margaret Wangari and Mary Wacera at three miles and cruised to an easy win in 35:48. Wangari, the 2012 champion, was second, 55 seconds behind, while Wacera was third. In the wheelchair races, Tatyana McFadden won for the fourth time and Daniel Romanchuk successfully defended his title. Among the other notables, reigning Boston Marathon champion Des Linden ran among the masses after sounding the starting horn as the official starter for the elite women. Bill Rodgers was the official starter of the mass race to mark 40 years since his last victory here, in 1978, and then jumped in to finish in 58:09. Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter also ran along with three-time Super Bowl champion Tedy Bruschi and NASA astronaut Sunita Williams.
Race day began on a somber note, but ended in a star-spangled celebration. Prior to the start, there was a moment of silence for beloved founder Tommy Leonard, who died in January at the age of 85. And then, after an early morning fog lifted, the sun was shining, especially on U.S. Army sergeant Leonard Korir, who won the open division to become first American men’s champion in 31 years. Wearing an Army singlet, Korir finished in a time of 32:11. The last American man to win the race was Mark Curp in 1988. Korir was twice runner-up in the past three years – including an epic battle with Stephen Sambu in 2017 when both were given the same time. However, there was no doubt this time as Korir overtook Sambu at 5½ miles and was in control to the finish, winning by 18 seconds. Edward Cheserek, the third fastest indoor miler in history, was third in the longest race of his career. Korir won $10,000 and a $5,000 bonus for taking The Countdown, a beat-the-clock handicap race where a finish-line clock starts when the first woman breaks the tape, counting down the time the winning man has to beat, according to a predetermined formula. Sharon Lokedi won the women’s race in her debut. The 25-year-old Kenyan, a former NCAA champion at 10,000 meters, finished in 36:29. American Sara Hall was second, five seconds back. Iveen Chepkemoi went out fast, too much so as it turned out. She blazed to a big early lead, but Lokedi reeled her in. However, she paid for her effort, requiring immediate attention in the medical tent at the finish. She recovered fine and enjoyed the $10,000 first prize. The 45th anniversary of wheelchair racing at Falmouth was celebrated with a field of 23 competitors and Daniel Romanchuk and Tatyana McFadden each broke their own course records, finishing in 21:58 and 26:15, respectively. It was McFadden’s fifth win and Romanchuk’s third. Falmouth fan favorite Maddie Wilson, only 10 years old, was fifth in a personal best of 52:25, far exceeding her goal of break one hour in her fourth appearance.