Thursday, August 18, 2011

Falmouth Road Race: The First Three Miles.

The starting line of the Falmouth Road Race is at the heart of Woods Hole, the home of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution or WHOI. As described on their website, it is “the world's largest private, nonprofit ocean research, engineering and education organization”. Added to the history of the race, the caliber of runners, and the pure beauty of the Atlantic Ocean and Martha’s Vineyard on the horizon, you almost have to be a zombie if you are not pumped as a runner.

The national anthem begins and 10,900+ runners go silent out of respect.
The US Coast Guard does a flyover.

"Two minutes to the start of the 39th running of the Falmouth Road Race" The runners cheer.

BANG! They are off.

Off we go, a sea of runners – first over a narrow metal draw bridge, then up a small hill past store fronts on the right and a few residences and commercial properties on the left. And throngs of cheering, enthusiastic runners on both sides. Although I would not have family at the start this year, I am reminded of years past when both my mother and dad (God rest his soul) stood among the crowd near the start to cheer me and other family members on. After we passed by, my parents would get in their car and drive up further (close to mile 5) to cheer us on again. Memories like that make Falmouth special.

As I ran that first ¼ to ½ mile I looked to the left, as I always do, at the Atlantic Ocean with Martha’s Vineyard in the distance. I thought of my dad and I also thought of my niece Julie who had cystic fibrosis and for whom I ran in memory of in 2002. And I thought of our daughter Abigail for whom every run of mine is dedicated. And, I of course, I thought of our daughter Anna; I would run my hardest because Anna and many others with spina bifida are not able to run.

At about the ½ mile mark, the race turns right and down a hill into a shaded rolling terrain before opening to what I consider the most scenic part of the course – the approach to Nobska Lighthouse! The one mile mark is at the base of the hill to Nobska Lighthouse - I usually have a good feel at this point in the race of how the race will play out for me. And, given my age and experience with Falmouth, I know to run the course with humility, not cockiness. That is how I approached the hill at Nobska – with humility.

My time at mile 1 was under 8:30. I was happy.

As runners approach Nobska, it is almost a guarantee that the theme song from the movie Rocky will be blaring. And no, that song has not gotten old for this runner!

As I took in the scenery and the cheering crowd, I remembered John H. (a former work colleague) had told me that he would be rooting me along at Nobska. And, even though I was skeptical of spotting him, I made sure to look. Sure enough, I spotted John standing on the lawn in front of Nobska Lighthouse! This is a guy who I had not seen in about 8-9 years and I pick him out of the crowd. The best part is that he spotted me! We exchanged acknowledgements and down the hill I went with the last view of ocean for about another two miles.

I rode the emotional charge of seeing John for about the next ½ to ¾ of a mile before settling into a nice rhythm as I scampered through the wooded and rolling pavement of the next couple of miles. This part of the race can be difficult mentally due to the fact that there are not as many cheering people and runners have come down from the “high” runners often experience the first mile.

Both my second and third miles were @8:20 pace. This was good.

To be continued…

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