The Falmouth Track Club was born in 1972. It was the brainchild of John Carroll, Falmouth High School girls’ track and cross country coach. Carroll began the FTC so that his HS girls could compete as a team in AAU events around New England and the East Coast. At this time there were no girls’ high school cross country or indoor programs in existence. The FTC girls were very successful, so successful that the FTC placed third in the 1976 USA Women’s Indoor Championships at Madison Sq. Garden in NYC. The club sponsored competitions for girls in cross country, indoor track and summer programs in Junior Olympics, AAU Junior Regional meets, as well as All-Comers meets. An extensive youth program was also conducted each summer.

At this time Carroll was not only the HS girls’ track coach but also the Co-Director of the Falmouth Road Race, which was the primary source of funding to send qualified girls to track meets when there were no high school girls’ programs. This allowed the high school girls the ability to train and compete at track meets year round with no cost to them. The adult running group in the area, called the Seagull Striders, and Carroll got together in the late ’70s when Carroll became aware that the Falmouth Track Club and the Falmouth Road Race could not legally have interlocking directors. So Carroll talked to the Seagull Striders, and he gave up responsibility for the club as the two groups merged into one club … the Falmouth Track Club.

While the primary objective of the FTC is to promote running and running related activities, the FTC is pleased to support local non-profit organizations from the proceeds of each of its races. Each year, the FTC donates several thousands of dollars.

A History of the Cape Cod Marathon

The Cape Cod Marathon debuted in 1978, over a four loop course at Otis Air Base on a bitterly cold December day. Not originally a Falmouth Track Club event, the CCM was started by Rich Sherman, who recruited his wife Kathy, Jack Oser, Jeff Burton and others to help in the first race. As a member of the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, Rich decided it would be easy to administer the race there, and so it began.

A few years later in 1984, it was proposed that the course be moved to the Town of Falmouth. A debate ensued within the Falmouth Track Club, with one of the main issues of relocating the race being the fear that the marathon organizers would never get enough volunteers for the new course. Holding the race on roads in Falmouth instead of the self-contained base would require hundreds more volunteers and, it was feared, constitute a logistical nightmare. But the skeptics were proven wrong. Today the marathon runs through the villages of Falmouth and more than 700 volunteers are out there making it happen. In the past four years there have been volunteers from 27 states.

From its modest beginnings it has become one of the most prestigious regional marathons. Runners’ World has identified it as among the ten most scenic marathons held in the United States, and New England Runner bestowed its 1996 Road Race of the Year award on the race. The Cape Cod Marathon has been the USATF-New England Championship 20 times out of the past 21 years. It is the final of seven events comprising the USATF-NE Grand Prix series. In 2007 there were 70 Ironrunners, those who complete all seven events in the series, entered in the CCM. The same year the appeal of the CCM was shown by the number of repeat entrants; twenty-one percent of the field had run the race before.

The Cape Cod Marathon is one of the largest club-organized running events in New England. In a day when most larger road races are professionally managed, the Cape Cod Marathon remains true to its roots. It is an all-volunteer effort, and the engine that drives the train is the Falmouth Track Club. Race director Courtney Bird has been involved in that capacity since 1982. There is a race committee of 30 people who organize it all. Each member has a specific area of responsibility – course management, start-finish area, medical, water stops, publicity, registration and results, etc. The committee member is responsible for lining up all volunteers necessary for his or her area. The emphasis was on delegation of responsibility. The water stop director is not responsible for lining up all people to staff the 10 stations along the course, but rather to find 10 captains – one for each stop – and charge them with the job of lining up a crew for that particular stop. The idea was to keep the responsibilities manageable so that good people were not burned out, to broaden the volunteer participation as much as possible, and to make involvement with the race fun. Read more about it on the Cape Cod Marathon website.

In 1993 in order to increase participation in the race, a five-leg relay was added to the marathon, modeled after the successful relay run at the Vermont City Marathon. Today nearly 200 relay teams compete in the marathon and the relay is usually closed out a month or more before race day, and it has broadened the participation in the marathon to many more runners who prefer not to tackle the entire course.

Running a race in late October (or even November or December, when the race was run in its early years before settling to its current end-of-October Sunday date) can bring challenging weather. In 1987, a 12″ snowfall three days before the race. In 1988, 40 mph headwinds along Surf Drive that sandblasted the runners in the last two miles of the course. In 1991, a course that was partially obliterated (Surf Drive) as a result of Hurricane Bob. In 1992, a driving rain and 38-degree temperatures. Several times when torrential rains and high winds on the Saturday before the race gave way to cloudless skies and ideal running conditions on Sunday. In 2006, the danger that the race would actually have to be cancelled because of debris, sand, and waist-deep puddles remaining on the course from the previous day’s storm, when only the heroics of the town DPW, who worked through the night to clear the course, enabled the race to be run at all.