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The Last Marathon

(Culled form the most recent issue of NER – Sept/Oct 2012)

 

by Russ Pelletier

 

The room is busy. Six
volunteers are at a table placing documents in specified envelopes, the fax
machine buzzing in the background. Two phones are being used and a cell phone
rings with another question needing to be answered.

 

Over on the computer, Leslie
is busy with the last minute entries. You know the ones‰ÛÓwaiting until the last
minute before suddenly realizing this could be the last opportunity to qualify
for the granddaddy of them all. Please, please they beg and somehow their
prayers are answered.

 

The scene may be typical in
the weeks prior to many of the road races that dot New England’s autumnal landscape.
This one is in the basement of Court and Carolyn Bird as they prepare for the 35th
Cape Cod Marathon, the signature event of the Falmouth Track Club.

 

Thirty years ago, the 5th Cape
Cod Marathon was slated for flight at the Otis Air Base when, three weeks
prior, the Race Director suddenly quit. Court and several others took over in
the emergency and disaster was averted.

 

In 1983, Court announced
that he would be the race director for one (1) year. When he suddenly realized
that he could base his entire wardrobe around free clothing that said, “Cape
Cod Marathon” he thought it might be a good idea to stick around for a
while. 

To this day, he is rarely
seen without clothes not bearing the CCM logo.
‰ÛÓCarolyn and Courtney Bird in 1982.

 

Whether it’s a Friday night
at the Quarterdeck or a wedding in Rhode Island, the trademark red CCM suspenders
are usually in the picture. A few years ago, friends presented him with seven
pairs of underwear with the CCM logo. Can anyone find another Race Director who
wears their race underwear seven days a week! (Ask him, he’ll show you.)

 

The 2012 Cape Cod Marathon
will mark 30 years since the Birds have taken over as Race Directors for one of
the most scenic and enduring races in New England. It will also be their last
as Race Directors.

 

After watching good friend
Tommy Leonard riding in the lead vehicle of the famed Falmouth Road Race, Court
& Carolyn have decided that it might be more fun to follow suit and
alternate between the Queen Mums pivot wave and the slow motion side to side of
Le Poppa.

 

For the first six years the
race was run on the very flat and extremely boring course located at Otis Air
Base. The multiple loop course was as exciting as watching the daffodils slowly
emerge at the end of a Cape Cod winter.

 

Over the objections of a few
FTC members, Court and Carolyn moved the course to the main streets of
Falmouth-By-The-Sea. Why not have the background of Nantucket Sound, the
cranberry bogs and the hills of Sippewissett vs. the old WWII barracks of Otis?
Seems like a no brainer right! OK, the town wouldn’t allow streets to be
closed, so runners would have to fake left and right as they dodged the Chevy’s
and Oldsmobiles meandering their way thru the villages. But it all worked and
the course has not changed since 1984. (By the way, we haven’t lost any runners
yet.)

 

As luck would have it, two
years later Randy Thomas would set the course record of 2:17:35, a record still
extant 26 years later.  (If you see
Randy on race weekend, mention this and he’ll buy you a beer at the
Quarterdeck‰ÛÓhe doesn’t know this yet.)

 

But the seed was sown. Since
Court & Carolyn have been at the helm, the Cape Cod Marathon has hosted the
NEAC and then USATF-NE marathon championship for 22 years. 
(The Birds Present day in Sippewisett South, aka The
Quarterdeck, photo by Russ Pelletier.)

 

In 1993, a five-leg relay
was added to the potential chaos on the roads. The relay has proven to be a
huge success; the 200 team limit maxing out early every year. While yours truly
has sponsored several all-male Eliot Loungers teams, these squads are annually
bludgeoned by the NER sponsored “Strike Force 40”, “Nifty After 50” and yes,
even Fitzy’s Frisky Felines speedsters. (Why do I feel that Bob or Michelle
might edit this paragraph?). [Ed. note: Actually, only part of the above paragraph was altered, and that for
factual content.]

 

If that wasn’t enough, last
year the Birds added a half marathon on Saturday, the day before the marathon
and relay. Crazy, right? The town will never go for it! We’ll never have enough
volunteers! But the reputation of Court and Carolyn and their ability to pull
off the event led the Town Council to approve the new event unanimously.

 

The volunteers came out of
the woodwork, albeit with a little prodding from Falmouth Recreation Department
Director and now Half Marathon RD, Helen Kennedy.

 

We now have a legitimate
Cape Cod Running Weekend. The Falmouth Track Club’s Friday Night 5, the half on
Saturday and the Marathon and Relay on Sunday.

 

The Cape Cod
Marathon/Relay/Half Marathon has seen a plethora of weather conditions.  When the 500+ volunteers were given t-shirts
for race day, it snowed. When they were given sweatshirts, it was 70ËÅ¡. We’ve
had full size buses from Canada arrive as team vehicles on our narrow race
course, survived tropical storms that found their way from the Gulf, and had
lead runners go off course within 800m of the finish. (Court gave them
additional prize money anyway.)

 

Volunteers have come and
gone. Various races have come and gone over the past 30 years. But to
paraphrase “Archie Graham” the one
constant has been Court and Carolyn. 
Their dedication and commitment to running an event that was both “fun”
and competitive has endured. 

 

The Falmouth Track Club has
procured office and storage space on Main St., next to the Falmouth Road Race
office. The equipment and supplies for the race have all been moved from the
Birds home on Sippewissett Rd. to the new location.

 

The operations may have moved
to the heart of the Village, but the heart of the Cape Cod Marathon will always
reside at 43 Sippewissett Rd.

 

 


 

 

 

 

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