There were 10,612 finishers under muggy conditions at 40th edition.
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FALMOUTH, Mass. — In its 40-year history, humidity has been an almost omnipresent constant of the Falmouth Road Race. This year was no exception, although few expected the volume, intensity and liquid nature of the moisture for this annual New England rite of the summer racing season.
Heavy rains pounded the western part of Cape Cod in the pre-dawn hours before the Sunday morning race, putting a few sections of the course under several feet of water.
“No way we could have held the race,” said Dave McGillivray, in his first year of directing the event that was conceived as a run between two Cape watering holes by Tommy Leonard 40 years ago. “The runners would have been up to their knees, and the wheelchair racers would have drowned.”
Fortunately, McGillivray was able to muster up a few submersible pumps to push the water off the course, and after a 15-minute delay, 11,000-plus runners set off on the 7-mile trek from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights.
While the moisture was no longer coming down from the skies, it was surely rising up from the ground, making for typical sticky conditions in spite of a wind that alternated at times between behind, from the side, or in the face of the runners. That resulted in a relatively dawdling 4:40-ish pace through three miles, and a huge lead pack of some 15 runners, which included defending championLucas Rotich.
Just past that point the pretenders began to separate from the contenders as the pace dropped each succeeding mile to 4:33, 4:28 and 4:26. That whittled the pack down to eight, six and finally three, consisting of Kenyans Rotich, Stephen Kipsogei-Kibet andStanley Biwott, and Biwott, 26, the 2012 Paris Marathon champion who won TD Beach to Beacon 10K last week, made the first move, just past the 10K mark before the final climb before the screaming downhill to the finish. Rotich, however, was not about to give up his title that easily, and mounted one last furious charge, coming within an eyelash of catching Biwott at the finish as Biwott hit the finish line in 31 minutes, 59 seconds – 22 seconds slower than Rotich’s time from last year. Rotich followed in 32:01 with Kipkosgei-Kibet nine seconds back.
Utah’s Luke Puskedra, sporting a throwback version jersey of his University of Oregon alma mater, was the top American in 11th at 33:14.
“I was confident in my speed at the finish,” said Biwott. “But I knew I could not relax, because my colleague’s speed was also very good.”
Biwott’s next big challenge will come in November, when he matches his speed with some of the world’s best marathoners on the streets of New York in that city’s marathon.
The women’s side of the race was almost a mirror image of the men, with a large pack going through relaxed splits in the 5:20 per mile range. In that group were 2010 champ Wude Ayalew of Ethiopia and Kenyans Emily Chebet and Margaret Wangari. The latter, after finishing fourth in her country’s Olympic Trials in the 1500m, ventured to America to try her hand on the roads, and came into Falmouth on a hot streak, having won Iowa’s Quad-City Times Bix 7 and the Maine TD Beach to Beacon 10K in the preceding two weeks.
By the time the women leaders reached five miles it was just the aforementioned trio left together.
“I was thinking I might have a chance to win this race,” said the 26-year-old Wangari. “Then one of the other women [Ayalew] pushed at six miles, and I was able to stay with her, so that gave me even more confidence. Once I got to the top of the last hill and could see the finish line at the bottom, I knew I could win because my sprint is very good from training for the 1500.”
Her countrywoman Chebet was equally quick over the final stretch, just nipping Ayalew at the line by one second, just three seconds off Wangari’s winning time of 36:54.
Stephanie Rothstein, who has raced sparingly but well on the roads this spring and summer since the Olympic Marathon Trials in January, posted another strong performance as the top American woman in 37:24, good for sixth overall.
“I’ve been trying to get in some good blocks of training between races,” she said. In spite of living in one of least humid parts of the country, Flagstaff, Arizona, Rothstein’s strong run in the soupy Falmouth conditions gave her encouragement to point for an unusual late season marathon: Honolulu.
“You’d think coming from Flagstaff I wouldn’t do well in humidity, but I do,” she continued, noting that her sixth place in the New York Road Runners Mini Marathon 10K came in similar conditions. Rothstein’s next race will be at the New Haven, CT Labor Day 20K USA Championship, where she’s likely to encounter more humid weather.
Although hopefully, not as intense nor as liquid.
The top Masters (40 and older) at Falmouth were Kevin Castille, 40, from Nicholasville, Kentucky and Irina Permitina, 42, of Russia, who clocked 33:42 and 38:04, respectively.
40th New Balance Falmouth Road Race
Falmouth, MA, Sunday, August 12, 2012
1) Stanley Biwott (KEN), 31:59, $10,000
2) Lucas Rotich (KEN), 32:01, $7500
3) Stephen Kipkosgei-Kibet (KEN), 32:10, $3500
4) Kiplimo Kumatai (KEN), 32:21, $2500
5) Silas Kipruto (KEN), 32:30, $1500
6) Allan Kiprono (KEN), 32:32, $1000
7) Gebretsadik Abraha (ETH), 32:53, $800
8) Harbert Okuti (UGA), 33:04, $600
9) Sammy Chelanga (KEN), 33:08, $500
10) Lani Rutto (KEN), 33:09, $400
11) Luke Puskedra (USA / UT), 33:14
MASTERS MEN (40+)
1) Kevin Castille, 40, USA / KY, 33:42, $2000
2) Vladmir Tontchinski, 45, Belgium, 36:37, $1000
3) Dennis Simonaitis, 50, USA / UT, 37:13, $750
SENIOR MAN (50+)
1) Simonaitis, see above, $500
1) Margaret Wangari (KEN), 36:54, $10,000
2) Emily Chebet (KEN), 36:57, $7500
3) Wude Ayalew (ETH), 36:58, $3500
4) Rita Jeptoo (KEN), 37:08, $2500
5) Lineth Chepkurui (KEN), 37:16, $1500
6) Stephanie Rothstein (USA / AZ), 37:24, $1000
7) Pauline Njeri Kahenya (KEN), 37:30, $800
8) Renee Baillie (USA / CO), 37:43, $600
9) Jelliah Tinega (KEN), 37:43, $500
10) Alice Kimutai (KEN), 37:50, $400
MASTERS WOMEN (40+)
1) Irina Permitina, 42, Russia, 38:04, $2000
2) Catherine Ndereba, 40, Kenya, 38:41, $1000
3) Sheri Piers, 41, USA / ME, 39:55, $750
SENIOR WOMAN (50+)
1) Joan Benoit Samuelson, 55, ME, 43:44, $500
Full results and more at: www.falmouthroadrace.com