The 6th Annual Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub Almost Five-Miler is set to take place on the morning of Saturday, October 2, and will be the group’s last-ever pub run.
What began as a conversation over some beers between friends has morphed over the years into a well-liked community event that took the concept of “almost” and ran with it, literally.
PCB Race Management is made up of three friends who have a shared love for running: Russ Pelletier, former Cape Cod Marathon Relay director and current director of the Falmouth Walk; Jack Carroll, former race director of the Falmouth Track Club’s Main Street Mile and winner of the 1982 Cape Cod Marathon; and Courtney Bird, who had a successful three-decades-long career as race director of the Cape Cod Marathon. The trio got the idea of organizing a race after friends pitched them the idea one night. The friends, Bob Fitzgerald and Michelle Lebrun, are co-publishers of New England Runner, a regional magazine that focuses on all things running, and asked the guys to help them organize a pub series run on Cape Cod.
“We came up with the idea of PCB sort of as a joke, because normally when you have three people and you form a business, you put the names in alphabetical order,” Mr. Bird said in a phone interview. “But when we were doing this, we saw that if you reverse it, that’s an ugly, environmentally horrible chemical. So, tongue-in-cheek, we decided that was the way we should set this up.”
Tongue-in-cheek is exactly how PCB tends to operate. Even their logo is a spoof: it features a bucket of green slime, branded with the initials PCB, being dumped over the globe—à la Sherwin-Williams paint—and a cartoon duck lying dejected underneath. The words across the globe read: Pour, Consume, Burp.
“So far we haven’t been sued by Sherwin-Williams, but that gives you an idea of where our tongue-in-cheek stuff goes,” Mr. Bird said.
The race route, which starts at Town Hall Square and travels south to Surf Drive and around Salt Pond before leading runners back the way they came, measures exactly 4.9167 miles, just short of the five-mile course they had planned to map out. It was not intentional, but it was the spark that got the “almost” fire going.
“Everybody said, ‘Why don’t you just re-engineer the course to come up with the right distance?’ And we said, ‘Well, that’s too much of a problem, we’ll just make the course short,’ and the idea of the Almost Five-Miler was born,” Mr. Bird said. “What ensued was several sessions of drinking beer and figuring out how we could develop this scene. How could we capitalize on that whole concept of almost?”
PCB did not just capitalize on the “almost” aspect, they developed it into their entire brand. Event capacity is set to exactly 499 runners, each of whom pays an entry fee of $34.99, or “almost” $35. PCB also awards cash prizes to the top finishers overall and in each age group. A lucky first-place winner will take home almost $300 in cash—$299, to be exact. There are also the “Almost Coveted Awards,” awarded to the top three co-ed groups: first place earns an “almost” case of Guinness, containing 23 bottles; second prize gets an “almost 12-pack,” and third place receives a six-pack of Guinness with one bottle removed, for good measure.
“Everything is based on that,” Mr. Bird said of the race’s “almost” theme. “We wanted to have a lot of fun with it. Yeah, you’re coming here to run, but we decided we wanted to sandwich the run around the pub. The run was sort of an excuse to go drink and party. We’ve already sandwiched this event between two episodes of debauchery, or as we call it, jollifications, and that’s not the end of it. ”
The race itself is just one part of a four-part weekend, the other three parts being parties. Complete with one pre-race and two post-race parties, at both Liam Maguire’s Pub and Mr. Bird’s own home, the weekend is bound to be a celebration of the end of a six-year tradition.
“We all are getting old, we wanna hang up our road management operations, retire and go off into the sunset,” Mr. Bird said. “It is the last year; we’ll retire after this and go out in style. People have said, ‘Why don’t you keep going?’ And, you know, it’s fun, we have a good time with it. Everyone will have fun memories of it. The whole reason we’re doing this is to stage an event for runners and have a good time.”
Even though the group is not a registered nonprofit, Mr. Bird said that PCB puts the money they receive from the race back into the community.
“We don’t get a thing out of it, we don’t take a salary or anything,” he said. “We do love to joke with people about how all the money goes right into our pockets, so we can go to Ireland, but the truth of the matter is we don’t take a penny out of it. And any surplus gets donated to local charities like the Falmouth Service Center and that kind of stuff. When we’re all done, we’ll just dissolve the partnership and turn the money over to local charities and go on, because it’s important. The community supports these events, so we have to give back. That’s all part of it.”
Giving back to the community has been part of the big picture when it comes to Liam Maguire’s Almost Five-Miler, but this year there is another big thing to consider: safety.
The sixth annual race was originally supposed to take place in May 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. PCB reassessed in October 2020, and decided to again postpone the event until May 2021 in favor of public safety. It was postponed again in the spring, and rescheduled for the morning of October 2.
Scheduling issues aside, the pandemic has posed an issue for events such as this one, with the potential for lots of people to be in close quarters for a period of time. Mr. Bird said that, after much deliberation, PCB decided it was best to require all participants in the road race to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours of the event. Once vetted, participants will have their hand stamped with a custom Liam Maguire’s Five-Miler COVID stamp of approval, and be all set for the weekend’s celebrations. It was a tough call to make, but once the Boston Marathon announced similar rules for its 20,000 runners, Mr. Bird said that PCB felt less apprehensive about making the announcement.
“We sent an email to every one of the preregistered runners in early September saying we had instituted this policy, it was for the safety of the runners and so forth,” Mr. Bird said. “But we also gave anyone the option, if they didn’t feel comfortable or didn’t want to comply with that, we would refund their money if they let us know within a week. We sort of girded our loins for the deluge of pissed-off people, and in truth we only had five people contact us and say they wanted a refund. And for the people that withdrew, we had at least an equal number of people that sent me emails saying ‘Thank you, you’re right on.’”
Feeling confident in their COVID protocol, PCB expects somewhere between 325 and 350 runners to participate in the race, with registration currently standing at about 270 people. Friends and family of runners who plan on attending the event are welcome to do so, but are required to follow the same COVID safety measures set up for participants.
“Everybody’s going to know what the deal is, and that’s a big part of it,” Mr. Bird said. “As long as people know what’s expected of them, they’re fine with it. We just feel, in the end, what we’re trying to do is make a positive statement by this. Our major concern is safety, and we feel that this is the simplest way to do it, and simpler is better.”