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home > races/results > usa: massachusetts > cape cod marathon—championship, and most memorable miles

Cape Cod Marathon—Championship, and Most Memorable Miles
The Cape Cod Marathon and Marathon Relay will provide wonderful experiences, a magical journey through time and a very special place. It will be the USATF-NE Championship, the final event of seven Grand Prix races.

Cape Cod Marathon—Championship, and Most Memorable Miles

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By Skip Cleaver
Posted Monday, 26 September, 2005

Put that training plan into gear, lace up those shoes and get ready for the 29th Annual Cape Cod Marathon.

Runners who are fortunate sometimes have the opportunity to run a marathon in a wonderful, memorable location—one of those places where everything just feels right. Hosted by Sovereign Bank, the Cape Cod Marathon and Dunkin’ Donuts Marathon Relay are such runs, and in a remarkably beautiful place.

Falmouth, Massachusetts, one of the 15 towns on Cape Cod, is a tranquil, relaxing, scenic, and overall tremendously enjoyable location for running. Falmouth is located on the southwestern shoulder of the cape, an area known for it’s natural beauty and maritime heritage. Add to the location an exceptionally well-planned, well-organized race with 29 years of experience, and the result is a fantastic winning combination.

The addition to the marathon of a 5-leg marathon relay 12 years ago has proven very popular and has sold out for the last 5 years. Both events are run simultaneously on a scenic course as varied as it is beautiful. The seashore, beaches, and harbors are prominent features, as Falmouth has more shoreline (68 miles) than just about any other southern New England town. But the scenic ponds, bogs, and wooded areas will be a pleasant surprise to any who are unfamiliar with the area. The marathon course is laid out in one of the favorite vacation spots of the northeast, but most of the tourists will be gone by October 30th, and runners can extend their stay in Falmouth to enjoy the tranquility of beautiful Cape Cod in autumn.

From Everywhere, They Come for the Marathon
The Cape Cod Marathon is the right race, in the right place, at the right time. USATF-New England believes it, because 2005 will be the 19th consecutive year this event was selected as a New England Championship—18 times the marathon championship, and once the relay championship. Organized and staged by the Falmouth Track Club, this will be the seventh and final USATF-NE Grand Prix event for 2005.

The race will blast off from the Falmouth Village Green at 8:30 on Sunday October 30th, and, after a single counter-clockwise loop, will finish where it started. The first six years the event was held entirely on Otis Air Force Base on the north side of the Cape, but it was moved to this scenic Falmouth location in 1984. Runners have been awed by the beauty of the course ever since. In fact, Runners World designated Cape Cod as one of the 10 most scenic marathons in the US. This marathon is simply one of the best for first- time marathoners, but it is also popular with veterans. The Falmouth Track Club’s credo is that every runner is treated as a guest. Consistency and experience are critical for any race, and Courtney Bird has directed this one since 1983.

Five Member Relay and Corporate Challenge
This is the thirteenth year for the Dunkin’ Donuts Marathon Relay, which was first run in 1993. It has become exceptionally popular with schools, corporations, and running clubs. There are five legs, a terrific combination that gives all abilities an opportunity to participate: Legs vary from 3.05 to 6.2 (3.05, 5.65, 6.2, 6.0, 5.3). The standard team event and the Corporate Challenge will run simultaneously with the individual marathon. All runners, individual and relay, will use the ChampionChip timing system.

The Rewards
There will be cash awards of nearly $10,000, including $2,400 for USATF-NE teams. There will also be trophies and merchandise awards, including something unique—merchandise awards to random finishers. Trophies and merchandise will be awarded for women and men in the open, masters, seniors (50-59), veterans (60-69), and grand veterans (70+) divisions. There will be separate awards for Filly and Clydesdale divisions. Participants will be as varied as the course and landscape.

In the relay there will be trophies awarded for the regular teams and for corporate teams separately in women’s, men’s, and mixed divisions—overall winners and age group winners. Winners? We have to say that everyone is a winner following this one.

The post-race meal in the Lawrence School cafeteria is one of the best. Clam chowder, hot pasta, fresh baked bread, salad, fruit, and juices are the traditional fare and the food is plentiful and of high quality. The Awards ceremonies will be held at the Falmouth Inn, and then the New England Runner Post-Race Party will get underway, also at the Falmouth Inn. It will feature live entertainment and replenishing beverages provided by the Offshore Ale Company. Lets go! This sounds like a plan.

Limited Fields for the Marathon and Relay
For several years the race organizers have limited the field sizes to 1,200 in the marathon and 180 teams in the relay to ensure quality. The relay has filled out by mid to late September every year for the past five years. The marathon reached its limit the first week of September in 2000 and 2001 and by the week before the race in 2004. Marathon Director Courtney Bird tells Cool Running that entries for both the marathon and relay are coming in well ahead of last year. He advises runners who want to run Cape Cod this year to not put off entering too long and to check the event website,, frequently from mid-June on for registration updates. Once the race reaches 800 entries in the marathon and 120 teams in the relay, the registration counts will be posted on the web-site home page.

Can you Believe This Course?
What a beautiful course! It is a perfect combination of challenging small hills and awe-inspiring landscapes. The course is half flat, and half rolling—it is faster than many assume. Between 25% and 30% of experienced marathoners typically PR on the course. There is variation of topography, but generally the first 10 miles are flat. The course never exceeds 100 feet in elevation, with some rolling mounds beginning in the 11th mile, and continuing through mile 23. Some of the later miles incorporate part of the famous Falmouth Road Race course, and the course goes past the picturesque and historic Nobska Light at mile 22. The last three miles are flat heading from the shore back into Falmouth center.

The first miles of the Cape Cod Marathon and Dunkin’ Donuts Marathon Relay head east from the village green along Nantucket Sound. The field will roll through Falmouth Heights, Menauhant, Davisville, Hatchville, and west to Buzzards Bay. The course then turns south and meanders through West Falmouth, Sippewissett, and Woods Hole before returning along Vineyard Sound to Falmouth’s Village Green and the finish.

In addition to the visual beauty of the course, the Falmouth Track Club has planted a few bands along the way and even an Elvis water stop at mile 23.5 to embellish the experience.

Runners will experience every section of Falmouth, coastal and inland. The entire route will be dressed in peak foliage, which will be accentuated by the silvery ponds and the sea. The course will pass, in no particular order, Waquiot Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Beebe Woods, and Woods Hole Golf Club course. The beaches include Surf Drive, Nobska, Trunk River, Chapaquiot, Wood Neck, and Menauhant. Beautiful ponds visible along the way will be Oyster, Salt, Bristol, Siders, Great Pond, Coonamessett, Miles (aka Ice House), Eel and Nobska.

Other features along the course include cranberry bogs, marshes, historic buildings, and the Shining Sea Bike Path. Falmouth Harbor and West Falmouth Harbor are memorable, and with luck, the Woods Hole Harbor will have the Institution’s ships in port, the Knorr, the Oceanus, and Atlantis.

Olympian Cathy Schiro O’Brien set the women’s record at 2:37:06 in 1987, and Randy Thomas set the men’s record one year earlier at 2:17:35.

Beautiful Town, Falmouth
Falmouth is an active and attractive resort town with a long maritime history. It is pure New England, with harbors and beaches, bogs and marshes, and a picture-postcard town center. There are also eight other villages within the town limits, including famous Woods Hole, home of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Falmouth was incorporated in 1686. The Falmouth Historical Society is located on the village green, and the Aquarium of the National Marine Fisheries Service is located in Woods Hole. The home of Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote America the Beautiful, is in Falmouth. She surely knew the beauty of the land, and knew well one of the “Shining Seas” incorporated in her verses. Within the town’s borders, as with the Cape generally, lie areas of unspoiled natural beauty.

Once known for shipbuilding, fishing and whaling, it is now an attractive tourist destination and commercial center. Falmouth is located on the southwestern end of Cape Cod, 72 miles southeast of Boston and 239 miles east of New York. It is a large town in area, with 54.44 square miles in total, with 33,474 permanent residents. There is lots of room to fit a terrific marathon course, and many of the 700 volunteers associated with the race are local folks.

Old Cape Cod
Cape Cod was named by English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold in 1602, although many explorers came before, including the Vikings 600 years earlier. The native residents had their own names, many of which are evident in various place-names throughout the Cape and Islands. But Grosnold’s is the one that stuck. He is also credited with naming Falmouth, after his homeport in England, although it was named long after his explorations. Glaciers, formed the Cape with coastal plain sediments mixed with moraines deposited by the ice sheets, which extended to Nantucket 23,000 years ago.

The Cape Cod Canal is a 7.5-mile channel across the isthmus of the cape running southwest to northeast linking Long Island Sound via Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod Bay. It is, at 480 feet, the world’s widest sea level canal, and with 32 feet of depth at low tide, it can handle very large ships up to 850 feet in length. It was opened as a private venture in 1914, and bought by the Federal Government in 1928. It reopened in 1940 in its present form. The canal saves about 135 miles for vessels compared to the trip around the outer cape, and is also much safer than the foggy, stormy eastern route. There are three bridges connecting the Cape with the rest of the Bay State.

Cape Cod Fun Facts

  1. Residents of the western Cape when the Europeans arrived were the Wampanoags, the “People of the Dawn”, a sub tribe within the Algonquin group.
  2. More than 20,000 vessels pass through the Cape Cod Canal each year.
  3. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, within the town of Falmouth, is the largest independent institution of its kind in the world. Opened in 1930, it is renown for its accomplished studies of the world’s oceans, working in conjunction with the National Science Foundation and the United States Navy.
  4. The Cape is technically an island, since the canal separates it completely from the mainland.
  5. The Cape Cod Canal was begun in 1909, although George Washington and his generals envisioned it as early as the Revolutionary War as a way to avoid British Blockades. It was opened on July 29, 1914, seventeen days before the Panama Canal.
  6. Barnstable County, which encompasses all of Cape Cod, was incorporated in 1685, and the present boundaries were drawn in 1707.
  7. The Massachusetts Maritime Academy at Buzzards Bay on the canal is the oldest and largest of the US maritime academies. It was originally the Massachusetts Nautical School located in Boston.
  8. Dredging near the Cape (and Georges Bank) has revealed the teeth of Mastodons and Mammoths, indicating that they and many other animals and plants inhabited the plain south and east of what is now Cape Cod and the islands. This shelf was exposed during the last Ice Age when the sea level was 400 feet lower.
  9. Glaciers deposited the material that now makes up Cape Cod 15,000 to 25,000 years ago. The hills, including those along the marathon course in Sippewissett and Woods Hole, are the result of deposits of rocks, gravel, sand, and silt trapped in ice then left in piles when the ice melted. The ponds were mostly from the opposite action—huge blocks of ice that left indentations (kettle holes) in the earth when they melted (including Ice House Pond at mile 18.5).
  10. The Pilgrims were originally headed to what is now New York and the Hudson River, but storms forced them north and they first landed on the tip of Cape Cod in November 1620, before crossing Cape Cod Bay to establish Plymouth Colony.
  11. Cape Cod Bay was once a glacial lake, and the river that drained it ran the course of what is now Cape Cod Canal.
  12. Cape Cod has 550 miles of shoreline, totals 396 square miles, and has 360 lakes and ponds.
  13. The year-round population of the cape is 205,000, but swells by three times that number during the summer months.
  14. The British warship Nimrod pounded the old Falmouth Harbor on Surf Drive (near the marathon course) with a barrage during the war of 1812.
  15. Camp Edwards, on what is generally now called Otis Air Guard Base, was a major training facility for the US Army during World War II.


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