Early Start For Women At Falmouth This Year

Diane Nukuri-Johnson of Burundi after placing second at the 2013 NYC Half (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

They begin the famous seven-mile race 10 minutes before everyone else.

(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

CAPE COD, Mass. — For the first time in New Balance Falmouth Road Race history, the elite women’s field will take off from the Tommy Leonard Start Line in Woods Hole 10 minutes before the elite men and mass of 12,800 runners, a move organizers hope will better showcase the international field set up for this year’s event. The seven-mile race from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights is in its 41st year and will be held this Sunday.

“Falmouth wanted to recognize the amazing women athletes who come from around the world. By giving them their own start, we are better able to allow them to stand out,” wrote Michelle DeLuties, a media representative for the race, in an e-mail to Race Results Weekly.

The decision to allow women to start 10 minutes in front of the men was applauded by American Stephanie Rothstein Bruce and Burundi’s Diane Nukuri-Johnson, both of whom are racing on Sunday. Rothstein Bruce was last year’s top American finisher, while Nukuri-Johnson placed second at the race’s 2011 edition.

“I am super thrilled for the separate female start at Falmouth,” Rothstein Bruce, 29, told Race Results Weekly in an e-mail message. “I do believe it helps give women a bigger stage to compete on and the fans can know when the lead women are coming through as opposed to being lost among a big mass of guys.”

One advantage to having a ten-minute differential in start times for women and men is that the elite females can race without having to worry about sub-elite men trying to keep close on their heels.

“I prefer women-only especially when it comes to short races,” said Nukuri-Johnson in a Twitter message to RRW. “The last 2 races, I almost got trip [sic] by the boys who wanted to run with Elite women. Very crowded and I don’t like it.”

Though Rothstein Bruce sometimes enjoys mixing it up when running side by side with men, she does recognize how it can impact the race’s outcome.

“Don’t get me wrong guys are super fun and often times helpful to run with during races but I also believe they can change the dynamics of how women’s races unfold,” she said.

Many high-profile races have created women’s only elite starts to help further the sport among spectators, giving professional women the chance to be recognized without being surrounded by men. In 2002, the ING New York City Marathon instituted an elite women’s start ahead of the men, with the Boston Marathon following suit in 2004.

“I joke with my husband Ben [Bruce] at times that I’m so jealous if he wins a race because he is literally the 1st person to cross the finish line and that is so cool,” wrote Rothstein Bruce. “When women have a separate start we get the opportunity to be the first to cross the finish line and spectators are more aware of our presence.”

With this year’s 10-minute differential in start times — 9:50 a.m. ET for women, 10 a.m. ET for men — race organizers predict the lead woman to finish at around 10:25, with the top male five minutes later at 10:30.

Among the elite women taking part in this year’s race — in addition to Rothstein Bruce and Nukuri-Johnson — are past champions Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya and Wude Ayalew of Ethiopia, Briton Gemma Steel, and Americans Julia Lucas, Renee Metivier Baillie, Neely Spence Gracey, and Katie Matthews. The women’s course record stands at 35:02, set by Lornah Kiplagat in 2000.

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