Falmouth, MA. – Timing and Tommy, what a combination. The end of the summah (sic) on old Cape Cod and the hospitality of race founder Tommy Leonard, put them together and what you get is what has come to be known as The Great American Road Race. This Sunday the New Balance Falmouth Road Race celebrates its 45th running.
Today, race weekend kicked off with a press conference at the Casino Wharf overlooking a gray Vineyard Sound and the finish line of the 7-mile summer classic. Defending champions Stephen Sambu (3x open men’s division), Katie Mackey (3x women’s Aetna Mile) and Tatyana McFadden (2x female wheelchair division) headlined the proceedings. But Falmouth weekend is very much a family reunion, too.
Inaugural year winners Dave Duba and Jenny Tuthill were back to remember 1973, even as they wondered where the ensuing years had gone. 1975 and ’76 men’s champion and race inspiration Frank Shorter never fails to return to the Cape to join Tommy Leonard for a stroll along memory lane. And six-time women’s champ Joan Benoit Samuelson will factor once again into the master’s competition, even at age 60.
Jenny Tuthill was one of the pioneer women runners back in 1973, having come off a third place finish at that April’s Boston Marathon before winning the first Falmouth Road Race in August.
“I was teaching at Mason Rice Elementary School in Newton (Mass.) at the time,” she recalled. “My husband George was getting his Phd at MIT, and my sister’s husband was assistant principal at Falmouth High School. We were also friends with John Carroll, (long time Falmouth Road Race co-director and coach of the Falmouth Girl’s Track Club). In fact, we got married in John and Lucia’s backyard in 1974.”
After three decades in Bozeman, Montana where George taught physics and Jenny continued teaching elementary school, the Tuthills moved back to New England settling in Alexandria, New Hampshire in 2007.
Original men’s champ Dave Duba was on a summer lark on the Cape during the summer of ’73. He didn’t even know there was a race being planned. But that’s the summer on the Cape, too.
“I was visiting from Central Michigan University,” Dave remembered. “We had a friend who had a relative on the Cape. His uncle worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (where the race starts), so we just stayed with him.
“It was great. I took off that summer just to run 100 miles a week. But didn’t know about the race until I picked up a hitchhiker who told me about it. I just showed up the morning of the race and post-entered.”
Who remembers either hitchhiking or post-entering road races? There are two prime examples of how different the world was 45 years ago.
Dave is going to attempt the seven miles on Sunday for the first time in 15 years, though he has a hamstring that’s been flaring up recently.
Jenny Tuthill had her right hip replaced in 2012, and won’t be toeing the line this year, though may try again in 2018.
Though not officially part of Falmouth Road Race weekend, the 27th Falmouth Walk takes place tomorrow morning at Town Hall Square, followed by the Aetna Falmouth Miles at Falmouth High School beginning at 4 pm. The Tommy Cochary High School Miles will begin around 5 pm, then the elite men’s and women’s miles will go. All the mile races will be streamed live on the Falmouth Road Race Facebook page. Then Sunday it’s the big 7-miler, Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights.
It’s the end of the summer on the Cape. Time to toast Tommy and take a 7-mile romp along beach. Where else would you want to be?