When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the town of Falmouth to cancel all planned group activities and put a damper on summer 2020, the Falmouth Road Race chose not to allow this year to become a lemon. The road race made lemonade with their stay-at-home edition, and fans of the annual seven-mile race—which usually treks from Woods Hole to the Falmouth Heights—seem to find it refreshing.
With just under two months to go before this year’s unique version of the Falmouth Road Race is held, the field is already approaching its usual number of entrants. Race operations manager Matt Auger said that as of Tuesday, June 23, the race had already exceeded 8,300 registered participants. The organizers project that the stay-at-home edition very well could have more than the 12,800 registered runners from years past, a number that the race is capped at by the town of Falmouth.
With two weeks to complete a stay-at-home version of the race, runners have the opportunity not only to run a course of their choosing near their home but also to do it when it is most convenient. What they do not have is a lot of time left to register in time to guarantee that they receive a personalized runner’s bib. Those who would like to see their own names printed on their bibs for the 2020 stay-at-home race must register before midnight on Sunday, June 28. Runners will still be allowed to sign up after that but are not guaranteed personalized bibs.
Mr. Auger said the bibs this year are sure to put a smile on the faces of those that get them. It’s just one of the extra pieces of flair that the the road race is trying to instill.
“They’re going to be pretty awesome,” he said.
Adding “awesome” to this year’s pandemic-augmented event is something that the race organizers have been striving to do throughout the past few months. It started on the first day to sign up for the race. The first 5,000 registered runners were told that they’d be guaranteed entry into the 2021 race. People flocked to their computers to make sure they didn’t miss out. Registration opened at 9 AM on May 18 and had reached the 5,000 mark in two hours. Another 1,500 runners registered before the end of the day.
Those 1,500 runners who had signed up a little too late were greeted with an email the next day that informed them that they too had been slotted in for 2021.
“Throughout the process we’ve been trying to ‘surprise and delight,’” Mr. Auger said.
Another way that the road race will continue to surprise and delight its participants is through random gifts. To help boost the local economy through this trying time, the road race committee purchased $25,000 worth of gift cards to local businesses and restaurants. Those are being doled out regularly to registered runners.
To make sure that racers have an experience that is not only unique to this year but also similar as can be to normal years, the road race will be including the usual gift bags to all registered runners as well. Other than the race magazine, the gift bags will include all of the usual swag that runners look forward to getting, including coffee mugs, bibs, a buff and a reusable bag. There is also a “virtual gift bag” that includes other surprises to enjoy.
By having to think outside of the box to make the race accomplish its goal of being a fun event no matter what, the road race committee has discovered new ways to engage its following. Mr. Auger said the race will benefit from this experience over the long run.
“I think it is going to impact how we produce this race in the future, for sure,” he said. “The whole process has been positive. It’s never seemed like we were kicking our feet and saying, ‘aw shucks,’ because we had to change it up...figuring this out has been a lot of fun.”
The annual SBLI Family Fun Run, which is held the day before the race at Falmouth High School during normal years, is also still on, just in a unique way this year. Children typically race appropriate distances for their age groups on Family Fun Run day, but Mr. Auger explained that it is difficult for people parse out 400 or 800 meters on their own. Rather than adhere to the normal Fun Run parameters, this year’s version features challenges for all of the kids.
Fun Run organizers have set up seven challenges for the kids to participate in. They are challenged to run for seven minutes with an adult; call a friend or relative; do a chore; read a book or play a game; eat a fruit or vegetable; write a note or draw a picture for a teacher, first responder or healthcare worker; or do something kind.
Children who sign up online for the Family Fun Run and complete the challenges will receive prizes, including a superhero cape, a face mask, a temporary tattoo and crayons.