Falmouth Road Race

On Sunday, I ran the 36th Annual CIGNA Falmouth Road Race. The race, which begins in Woods Hole, Cape Cod, goes right along the ocean, ending 7 miles later in Falmouth Heights. I ran it on behalf of the Melanoma Foundation of New England, raising–thanks to the generosity of family and friends–$3,000 to help raise awareness about skin cancer. Our team raised more than $14,000 in total, and I am thrilled to be such a part of that success.

So, everyone who knows me, knows that I am not exactly athletic. Let’s be honest: I’d rather read a book, play with R, do the laundry–you name it–before I would play a sport. And, working out, well, let’s just say that was a challenge even before I had a baby. But, last year, when I was enormously pregnant and feeling oh-so-amazed by just how hard it was to make any sort of movement–much less running–my friend, Rajeev, mentioned that he was running the Falmouth Road Race (for the second time, I think). It sounded like so much fun (please note that Raj is an athlete, so I have no idea how I got this into my head that I would be well-equipped to take this on). The thought of being a year away from my big, pregnant, Shrek feet self and being able to run…well, I wanted to do it. So, I told my sister-in-law, Roopal, that I was going to do it. She probably doesn’t even remember the conversation, but she said something supportive and that was it.

Flash forward to 2008….. oh no, I realize, I really have to do this! I also realize that the organizers probably won’t let me into the race on my racing experience alone (elementary school dashes around the playground, unfortunately, won’t count), so I decide to run for a charity (which guarantees me a spot). It was an easy pick for me. The Melanoma Foundation’s work to raise awareness about skin cancer and to promote skin cancer prevention is critical. I decided to run the race for the Foundation, with my Dad as my inspiration. (New readers to this blog may not know that my father died from melanoma in 2001.)

Once I joined the team, the hard part arrived: training! This is where I am especially grateful to two people: my dear husband, Rob, who supported me throughout this process and who was so incredibly positive about my abilities to reach this goal, and my couldn’t-ask-for-a-better brother, Michael, who served as my coach, offering running tips and ongoing encouragement. Thank you both so much! I prepared by running the Minuteman Bike Path in Arlington and Lexington and by doing a lot of hoping and praying that I would make it across the finish line.

The race day dawned bright, clear, and in the high 70s. More than 10,000 racers–plus their families, friends, and the media–converged upon Falmouth for the big day. I was so nervous! This is a serious race, with cash prizes for the winners and with many elite runners who compete year after year. I knew a few people who were running, but planned to tackle the race by myself. I was in the purple group. First went the wheelchair racers (see the photo of one of them in the blog — amazing!), then went the elite runners (AKA people who had a shot at the money; see another picture of one of the first runners across the finish line), then the orange group (seemed to be runners in the 20s, but I am not sure), and then the purple group! We were a mixed bag: young (and I mean young–several kids ran the race!), old, men, women. We started at 10:12 AM, 12 minutes after the elite racers. It took a while to get to the start line, since there were so many people.

The first two miles were filled with hills and are run in close quarters with the other competitors since the road is narrow. In fact, all I could see for quite a while was people–people in front, behind, all around. We were as close as those seats in the bleachers at Fenway; you could feel your fellow runners’ sweat as they went by. The best part was checking out the other runners: the young man dressed in Native American garb (including loincloth and headdress), the parents running with their kids, and the people dressed as fairies, pumpkins, and penguins. My favorite, though, was a man who runs every year, wearing a “Thirsty Irish” shirt (“We run to drink), bouncing a tennis ball in one hand and drinking a Budweiser (from a can) in the other. Made you almost forget that you were running!

Somewhere between miles 2 and 3, I realized that I was in step, with another runner. We hit the pavement at the same time, our eyes fixed ahead, looking for the next mile marker. She turned out to be Laurie from Bridgewater, MA, and was running the race on behalf of the Liver Foundation. She got separated from her cousin at the beginning of the race, and was working toward the finish line on her own. Once we both acknowledged that we were running at the same pace and rhythm, we stuck together. I kept us on target (“2 minutes until mile 5”), and she offered the necessary encouragement to get us up the last hill (“just imagine you’re pulling yourself up with a rope”). We were a great team, and I am grateful for her companionship.

The surprising part of the race was how much fun it was. Spectators set-up along the route, offering encouragement, handing out water, spraying us with hoses, singing songs, blasting music from car speakers. They made the day enjoyable (yes, can you believe I wrote that?) and made the 7 miles go by very quickly. My friend, Alison, described the race as a lot of fun, and I thought she was crazy, but she was really right on target. The energy and spirit of the crowd come together for a terrific day all around.

I finished the race in 1 hour, 18 minutes, and 28 seconds. This is about an 11 minute mile, which, for me, is like wining Olympic gold (OK, maybe the bronze; I think I can do a 10 minute mile). I was so thrilled to cross the finish line that I missed Rob, Christie, R, and our friends, Laura and Keren, who were cheering me on! There’s even a picture of me running; I’m the person on the left in black shorts and a baseball cap. I met up with my personal cheering section afterward, and you can see pictures of me recounting the race and celebrating with my boys. (See Robby’s onesie? It says “In Training” on the back!)

Many thanks to everyone who helped me raise $3,000 for the Melanoma Foundation: Mom; Michael; Fay; Gina, Otto, & the kids; Uncle Mickey & Aunt Maggie; Christie; Paulina, Sean, & Rory; Kathy; Aunt Susie & Uncle Jerry; Roopal, Dave, & Kai; Lynn & Tom; Denise, Bob, & the kids; Alison & Rob; Casey & Meridith; Doris & Frank; Grace; Adam & Judie; Laura & Keren; Antoinette & Marty; Eva, Justin, & the kids; Ellen; Carey Sue & family; Amy & Amanda; Rajeev; Sara & Bobby; Laura-Lee & family; and of course, my boys.

And, by the way: I’m looking for a running partner for next year’s race….interested? Let me know….