Falmouth in 1988
The Falmouth Road Race has a special flavour. It carries the tang of summer and the strong whiff of salt that comes off the Atlantic Ocean. It’s always very hot for that race. In August, as the race approaches, the excitement and holiday atmosphere build in Falmouth.
A lot of track coaches might have questioned my decision to do the 7.1-mile Falmouth Road Race just over a month before the Olympics, but it was one of my favourite races, and I wasn’t going to give it up. Also, it would be a good test of my fitness.
Falmouth is such a small place that, unlike most other major U.S. road races, elite athletes aren’t put up in hotels. Instead, locals volunteer to host an athlete or two in their homes during the race weekend. I remember being picked up by a race volunteer at Logan Airport in Boston. After that it was perhaps a three-hour drive to Falmouth, but time passes quickly with runner-talk.
I was lucky to stay with a very welcoming and friendly host family. They were eager to show me the ocean and other sights in Falmouth. The two teenaged sons of the family were semi-serious runners who were competing in the race. They wanted to find out as much as they could from me about my training and racing strategies.
This was only my second trip to Falmouth. My first race there, in 1983 (see 1983 Training Log page of this blog) had been a huge success. 1983 was my breakthrough year in distance running, when I lowered my 10K PB from 34-something to 32:23 (track). That year at Falmouth, I had placed second to Joan Benoit. Her time of 36:21 was a course record, and though I had been 26 seconds behind her, my time of 36:47 was still second on the all-time list.
What do I remember about the race course itself? Mainly, I remember that the start was one of the most terrifying of all my racing experiences. The race begins in Woods Hole (the location of a world-famous biology research centre). Thousands of people are packed onto a narrow starting line. It’s physically frightening to be on the front line as an elite woman, knowing that hundreds of much larger men could easily trample you immediately after the gun goes off. What made Falmouth much worse than other races was that the start was on a grated bridge. I was afraid that my tiny running shoes would get caught in the holes; luckily that didn’t happen.
The Falmouth course begins with about two miles of rolling hills that quickly separate the fit from the unfit. After that, the course is pancake flat, designed for speed. The main opponent for runners is the oppressive heat. This worked in my favour; being a small, thin person is an advantage in hot weather. This year I was especially well-acclimatized to heat because of the hot Toronto summer. Spectators with hoses lined the course, and I made sure to get drenched at every opportunity.
In 1988, I had my personal fans cheering me on—my coach, George Gluppe, and running teammate Joseph Kibur had driven all the way from Toronto to watch the race.
Though it was an Olympic year, competition would be stiff at Falmouth. Joanie was there, but so was a new sensation on the road-racing circuit—New Zealander Anne Hannam.
The entire 1988 road racing season was dominated on the women’s side by one athlete, Anne Hannam. She was an unknown before that year, but in a span of time between about April and October, she won nine major road races, setting new course records in many of them. I ran in a couple of the same races as she did, and also followed her exploits in the running magazines. I talked to her at races, and learned that she was a top-level pianist and an all-round high achiever.
Sadly, I don’t think Anne Hannam ever ran at a world-class level again after 1988. She was a tragic example of an anorexic elite female distance runner. Between Falmouth in August (when she was already very thin) and the Tufts 10K for Women in October of 1988, I witnessed her dramatic weight loss first-hand.
Unfortunately, many top female distance runners become obsessed with their weight, and anorexia is not an uncommon condition. I plan to write about this in a future post.
I was very pleased with my race in 1988. Here are the top women:
Although my time was 10 seconds slower than my 1983 time, this was nonetheless a good performance considering I was still battling injuries, an intestinal infection, and reported “coughing up stuff” during the race because of a viral infection.
Joan Benoit Samuelson
This was also the only time I ever beat Joanie in open competition (though I later beat her at the Tufts 10K for Women when we were both Masters runners.) Her greatest years were 1983 and 1984 (when she achieved iconic stature with her stunning win at the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles.)
My earliest personal memory of Joanie comes from her next-most-famous achievement: Her 1983 victory at the Boston Marathon, when she smashed the world record (set by Grete Waitz at the London Marathon only one day before Boston!) by over two minutes, with a time of 2:22:43. I remember hearing this story on a Toronto morning radio news station. It must have been the morning after the race, since the Boston Marathon always starts at noon, but even day-old news about running was a lead story, such was the magnitude of Joanie’s athletic achievement.
Joan was (and is) not only a phenomenal athlete, but a superb role model. I always found her to be friendly, approachable, and down-to-earth. Becoming a superstar didn’t change her.
Joan Benoit Samuelson has continued to be an avid runner. She is also a motivational speaker, a race organizer, and is active in other ventures that promote health and fitness. You can find out more about her on her website, on Wikipedia, or follow her on Twitter @JBSamuelson.
The Falmouth Road Race in 2012
The 40th edition of the Falmouth Road Race was held this year on August 12, 2012, the same day as the men’s Olympic Marathon in London. There were over 10,000 finishers. The changing face of women’s distance running could be seen in the results: The top five women were all from Africa, four from Kenya and one from Ethiopia. Margaret Wangari won in 36:54, followed closely by Emily Chebet at 36:57 and Wude Ayalew at 36:58. These times are comparable to the 1988 results I showed above, but in fact there have been many faster women’s times run at Falmouth since 1988. The course record, an astonishing 35:02, was set by Lornah Kiplagat of Kenya in 2000.
On perusing the 2012 results, I also noticed that Joan Samuelson, at age 55, won the 50—59 division in a time of 43:44.
Olympic Training Log
August 20, 1988
Rest day. Still feeling sluggish.
August 21, 1988
AM: Falmouth Road Race. Came 3rd, 36:57. Hannam 1st, 36:36, Geiger 2nd, 36:40, Samuelson 4th, 37:13. Felt quite good, except still a bit sluggish, coughing up stuff—must have a virus. Later jogged back to car—about 10 miles total. Heel sore later. Did some swimming in ocean.
August 22, 1988
AM: Did a little swimming in ocean, jogged back to house (1 mile).
PM: [back in Toronto] Rode bike to gym. “Pull-strength” plus leg lift on incline, hamstring curl and leg extension. Worked hard 67 min plus 10 min easy on stationary bike. Heel better but still feeling bad—started taking antibiotic for bowel infection.
August 23, 1988
AM: Did workout at Belt Line. 32 min moderately good warmup. 5x mile+ interval with 1 min rest. Times 6:01, 6:12, 5:54, 6:17, 5:58. Worked hard. Did 5 strides with walking rest on trail, jogged back to car. Injuries not even noticeable, feeling lethargic still because cold is worse. About 10 miles.
PM: Lifecycle workout. 24 min level 6, level 9. 14 min level 9, level 7 from Fitness Test on. Felt surprisingly good.
August 24, 1988
AM: Rode bike to gym. Did “push-endurance” workout plus hamstring curls, situps, knee lift with cable. 66 min. Stomach feeling bad again today.
PM: Swim workout at Fitness Institute. 1025m warmup 21:30. 4 sets 200m, 100m, 50m, with 30 sec rest after 200 and 100, about 45 sec rest after 50. Times 3:58, 1:53, 54, 3:54, 1:52, 55, 3:55, 1:54, 55, 3:57, 1:55, 54. Arms felt good.
August 25, 1988
AM: Did track workout with Jeannette at Earl Haig [gravel track]. 10x 300m with 1½–3 min rest (more toward end). Took rest after 6 to put on racing flats. Times 49–50 for all of them—worked very hard. Then ran 35 min in Earl Bales—running slowly, because I was tired and nauseated after track. About 8½ miles. Injuries not bad, felt good today.
PM: Bike workout at club. 33 min on stationary bike.
August 26, 1988
AM: Swim at Fitness Institute. 1025m warmup 21:40. 5 x 100m going every 2:30. Times 1:53, 1:52, 1:52, 1:51, 1:52. 400m: 7:52. 5 x 100m, times 1:52, 1:52, 1:52, 1:53, 1:52. 2 x 50m 53’s. Good workout.
PM: Did “pull-endurance” workout at club, plus leg extension, inner thigh machine, leg lift on incline. Worked very hard 65 min. Feeling a bit nauseous today.
This week: 28½ miles running, 3 weight workouts, 2 swim workouts, 1hr11min on stationary bike.