Although the last three miles of the Falmouth Road Race can be difficult for runners, it is also fun.
Knowing I only had one final obstacle to overcome with the hill at about the 6.7 mile mark, I felt fairly strong and was in good spirits as I turned right off Shore Street onto Clinton Ave. As usual, the crowds here energized me with their screams of encouragement – it was time to start looking for my family in that crowd!
In years past, a sister-in-law had watched the race from the right-hand side of Clinton Ave. so I kept my eyes over there and spotted Sue. We exchanged a quick greeting and I continued on, looking now to my left, very much anxious to see my daughters’ reactions when they saw their daddy. The crowd seemed deeper than usual along this part of the race, which makes it a little tougher to maintain pace and look for family without missing them. Fortunately, I caught sight of my mother-in-law Sheila about thirty feet out.
With my first Falmouth being about 15 years ago, my life was obviously different in 1996. In my early thirties and newly divorced, running had become a way to rediscover myself. Pounding the pavement for minutes or hours allowed me time to not only regain some fitness I had lost, but also to gain some much needed spiritual focus. The first few years running Falmouth were years spent building (and re-building) friendships, family, and self. Fifteen plus years later, I was now running Falmouth as a father to four year old identical triplet girls, father to an angel we named Abigail, and a husband to a strong and warm-hearted woman. This would be the third year my daughters would be watching me run, but the first year in which they had some clue as to what running a race was about. So…I had more reason to be anxious about seeing them.
A few minutes earlier I had grabbed a lei from a woman in the crowd who was passing them out to runners. My intention was to surprise Anna with the pink lei when I stopped to give her a kiss. As I approached my family, I saw Sarah holding Anna and they both had huge smiles on their faces – what a feeling! I got either a kiss or high-five from each of my daughters and was on my way to the mile 5 mark before Anna, Allie or Emily could figure out what their daddy was doing! With the adrenaline now on HIGH, I was ready to finish the remaining 2+ miles…
As I jumped back into the pack, I glanced back for another look at my family. With each strike of my Saucony treads hitting the pavement, I felt a sense of gratitude for what we had as a family. I also thought of Anna and how she can brighten a room with her warm heart and sweet voice. Even though working full-time, taking MBA level classes and being a husband and dad, while fundraising and training for this 7.1 mile race was difficult at times, I could not complain. How could I not run this race for Anna and all the other children (and adults) with spina bifida? My eyes began to water as I ran. I still do not know if the tears which wanted to flow were tears of gratitude, sadness or joy. It doesn’t really matter, I guess. Because the tears proved that I was running from my heart (literally and figuratively).
The sixth mile at Falmouth, which runs adjacent to Falmouth Inner Harbor, went by fairly quickly for me. And, given the fact that I always find mile 6 to be difficult, I was fine with that! The one thing I will say is that the whistle-blowing lifeguard runner who I had run alongside earlier in the race was back alongside me. Let’s just say that the whistle-blowing did not have the same positive effect it had on me during mile four…we turned right onto Falmouth Heights Road and I got ready for the last mile and a half. My pace had slowed slightly, but I knew I still had an opportunity to reach at least one of the goals I had set for myself. My wind was fine, but my legs began to feel a bit sluggish. The final hill was going to be tough.
The base of the hill is beyond the 6.5 mark – just as Grand Ave. turns left. Earlier the same day I had told a Falmouth first-timer “just remember - if you feel like you are going to vomit going up the final hill, you are not alone!” Similar to the Boston Marathon’s Heartbreak Hill, the final hill at Falmouth is placed such that it can really zap a runner if the runner is not ready for it. I was ready mentally, but I wasn’t feeling very confident in my body at this point in the race. Time to focus. I started the inner chatter: “take it little by slow…just get to the top…the finish is near…suck it up…”. I hit flat pavement. And then downhill. The enormous American flag came into view and the cheering of the crowds continued as I picked up the pace in hopes of reaching my goal…
Next post: final thoughts on Falmouth 2011.