This August, instead of moving cones, directing runners,
folding t-shirts, greeting VIP’s and generally running around putting out
fires, I will be a participant in the Falmouth Road Race. This is not at all
what I expected the end of the summer 2020 to look like for me. I am sure that
most people are saying the same thing, our lives having been upended by
COVID-19 and all the changes that we have been forced to make. In fact, back in February, I was
asked before being offered my new job if I ran the Falmouth
Road Race? To which I replied, “I have but I am never running that race again!” I immediately regretted blurting
out my true feelings until I was told that my answer was pretty much what they
were looking for as race organizers have no time to even think about
participating in the Falmouth Road Race during the madness of race weekend.
I pride myself in handling crazy, busy situations from
working in retail during the height of Christmas season and at a more recent job, corralling customers
at the Street Fair held on Main Street in July so, I was actually
looking forward to an insane week of working the Expo, the race and the
aftermath and of course, lots of t-shirt folding. When Falmouth Road Race made the decision to move to a virtual event that would invite runners to participate “At-Home” instead
of organizing the logistics of getting 12,800 runners to the starting line in Woods Hole on the second Sunday
in August, everyone on the team decided that we could "run" this year and wouldn’t it
be fun to actually be a part of it? Yes, that idea was “fun” in April. Training
or should I say, dragging my body through barely four miles, hoping I will eventually be able to do the required seven in the August heat is
a special type of torture. Now, I remember why I said to my future boss, “I am
never running that race, again!” I should have known those words would come
back to haunt me.
When one of the cooks who worked with me started spouting
off about running the race, I casually mentioned that I had a number and was thinking
about doing it, as well. He was so glib and cocky that I ended up being swept
up into the kitchen banter that night and somehow agreed to a bet to see who
would run the race faster. What was I thinking? Since I had never run the route
before or even ran seven miles together at one time, I really don’t know what possessed
me to say anything about it.
My boss pulled me aside between orders and yelled into my
ear to be heard over the hood fan sucking all the smoke and hot air out of
“You better kick his ass” she hissed in my ear. "And you have to wear one of our t-shirts."
There would be no backing out now.
I was nervous that morning, afraid I wouldn’t make it to the
finish line, forget beating that arrogant cook in the race. But I had a few
aces in my pocket: I was only seventeen, just home from a week of field hockey camp
where we sprinted and ran miles every day, all day from 8:00 am-8:00 pm and I didn’t
drink lots of beer after working a fifteen hour shift like the older, college age
cooks in the kitchen.
We ran slowly at the start, jockeying between bodies
trying to find some space to open up a longer stride. Then, once we neared the
lighthouse, he turned to me and said, “Don’t try and keep up with me!” and
sprinted ahead into the crowd of runners. I was stunned. I guess I thought he
would run with me for a while, the bet only a joke, a way to pass the time at
So, I ran and took in the scenery, trying to figure out how
far and long I had to go. I was a little scared but comforted myself with the
idea that there were so many people running and cheering on the sidelines that
it would all work out. Then, into about the second mile, I saw him up ahead. I began
to feel good, even strong. I knew in that moment I could take him and beat him
to the finish line. Especially since he chose to wear work boots to run seven
miles. As I came up behind him, I yelled, “Don’t try to keep up with ME!” and
sprinted ahead so that I was no longer near him.
The story of my first race ends with a crazy busy summer night
in the kitchen back at work that evening. (No, we could not get the entire day
off.) And me collecting on the bet I didn’t think I could possibly win. For my prize, he bought me a handle of vodka
and the biggest bottle of Peach Schnapps they had on the shelves at the Woods Hole Liquor
store. Fuzzy Navels and Sex on the Beach drinks were all the rage but I had
never had one back then. Just as well, my best friend’s older sister and her
friends commandeered the booze for an after work party before I was forced to
figure out what to do with it.
The weather was typical for a Sunday in mid-August that year:
hot, humid and sunny. But on occasion there have been some tough conditions. Fortunately, I didn't personally have to deal with them. My friends and I became huge fans of
the party scene on Road Race Sunday and it certainly helped that one of my
closest pals lived just behind the ball field at the finish line. That was my
experience of Road Race until the year that I agreed to run with my then fiancé
and soon to be husband. In 1999 it rained like crazy on Saturday night into
Sunday morning. But the race was still on in spite of the deluge. My father’s
truck tires splashed water over the windshield from the enormous puddles that had formed all night as he drove us to our impending doom at the crack of dawn on race day. When we arrived at the starting line and we hopped out of the truck to join the thousands of already drenched runners, I stupidly declined the black trash bag he offered to keep me dry.
Of course I did it, I’m not one to give up but I really
didn’t want to run. I knew within minutes waiting in the coral at the start
that I would soon be soaking wet and miserable. I don’t even like to run through
a hose held from a ladder, showering runners as they go by on the sunniest and
hottest race day. About 3.5 miles in, half the race through, along Surf Drive
Beach, I just wanted to stop. The water had flooded this stretch of road so it
felt like trudging through knee deep water in the ocean located just
feet away. But if you’ve ever run Falmouth before, you know if you made it that
far, you might as well keep going. There was no sense in throwing it away at that
point regardless of the horrible circumstances.
The rest of the 7 miles was as cold and miserable as
anyone can imagine. Rivers of water pooled in the streets. Soaking wet
spectators cheered us on as it continued to rain throughout the morning. When I
heard my father in his orange rain gear and my mother under her yellow striped
umbrella yelling our names as we rounded the bend at Scranton Ave. and Robbins Rd. (behind the 7-11), I knew I didn’t have
far to go and all I could think about was a hot shower and dry clothes. Finally
we climbed the last hill and crossed the finish line. I don’t even think we
tried to wait under the tent on the ball field to grab a hot dog before we made a
beeline for our car parked conveniently at our faithful friend’s house on North
Grand Ave. where the party had already begun before the starting gun went off
in Woods Hole.
I got my shower and warm clothes then cruised on back to the party which I should have left early but I know I didn’t. (I always took the following Monday off from work ;)) But I vowed, and I have kept it until this year, to never ever run that race again!
When DeKuyper Peach Schnapps became all the rage in the 1980's, Fuzzy Navel, Sex on the Beach and the Woo-Woo were popular drinks served at the huge post race parties held at the Wharf overlooking the Heights beach at the Falmouth Road Race finish line. These cocktails are various combinations of vodka, peach schnapps and fruit juice (orange or cranberry) and way too sweet for me. They will also give you a killer hangover! Here is an updated version of the Woo-Woo which was served as a shot. The addition of lime juice makes it less sweet and creates the perfect post race celebration cocktail!
2 oz. vodka
½ oz. peach
¼ oz. lime
shaker with ice. Add vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and lime juice.
Shake well, until chilled. Pour into chilled martini glass and garnish with
lime. Sip and enjoy!