In the wheelchair division, sponsored by Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, Tatyana McFadden won for thefourth time here, in 28:43, while Daniel Romanchuk defended his title in 23:48.
Flanagan, whose response of “Where’s my mom?” after winning the 2018 NCAA title at 10,000 meters this spring went viral, denied Stephen Sambu his fifth-consecutive title when he crossed the line first, in 32:21, followed by Americans Scott Fauble in 32:23 and Leonard Korir in 32:28. Sambu came across in fourth, (32:32), with Martin Hehir fifth (32:38) to put three Americans in the top five.
Winning the women’s race in the wheelchair division, sponsored by Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, was Tatyana McFadden in 28:43, while Daniel Romanchuk defended his title in 23:48, the fourth-fastest time in race history.
A rookie on the pro circuit, Flanagan nonetheless knew that Sambu was a master of the course and two-time runner-up Korir had a killer kick, so he sat back and churned away mile after mile among the lead group. Winding through opening miles of 4:34, 4:44, and 4:40, Sambu led a pack of 20 that held tight from Nobska Light all along the waterfront down Surf Drive. Korir and U.S. Army teammate Haron Lagat touched the lead briefly, while Scott Fauble, Martin Hehir, and Flanagan sat in their slipstream. The pack would be cut in half by five miles (23:14), with a remarkable six men still in contention turning onto Falmouth Heights Road for the final mile.
Surprising even himself, Flanagan made the climb up the last hill only to realize he had begun to separate and leave the group behind. Once he saw the finish tape, the Kitchener, Ontario, native sprinted and began his celebration, pointing to the crowd and leaping through the tape with a pump of the fist.
“It’s unbelievable, honestly,” said Flanagan, the first men’s champion to hail from North America since Missouri’s Mark Curp in 1988. “I’ve found myself at these events that I could only really have dreamed of competing at. The attitude has been [that] there’s no specific expectation. I know what I’m capable of doing, but
there’s nothing to lose coming into these races.”
The 23-year-old pocketed $10,000 for the win plus an additional $5,000 for prevailing in “The Countdown” by finishing within three minutes of Chepkoech. “It’s the best surprise in the world! I have one semester of school left and I think I just paid it off right there. Best day ever!”
Flanagan is coached by the University of Michigan’s Kevin Sullivan, a three-time Olympian and winner of the 2002 Falmouth Mile.
The women’s race was once again dominated by the 24-year-old Chepkoech, who pulled away from compatriots Margaret Wangari and Mary Wacera at three miles.
“Because Wacera and Wangari they were strong, so I decided to push fast,” said Chepkoech, who had hoped to assault the course record but was hampered by a headwind. “I’m happy so much for winning this race. I’m focusing for Falmouth. I love Falmouth. I love the people of Falmouth.”
Wangari, the 2012 Falmouth champion, would finish second in 36:43 – 55 seconds in arrears – while Wacera was third in 37:17.
The first American woman across the line was Melissa Dock, 36, of Boulder, CO, who ran the race of her life. “I thought maybe on a good day I could be top 10, but I never imagined this,” said the mother of 6-year-old twins who twice has won the citizen’s race at the Bolder Boulder 10K.
Winning the men’s masters division was Ryan Carrara, 42, of Hudson, MA (39:03); for the women it was Kaela O’Neil, 40, of North Kingstown, RI (42:40)
For the wheelchair racers, Romanchuk recorded the fourth-fastest time in race history, while McFadden’s ranked #5. But it was her third-place overall – besting 11 of the 13 male competitors – that was especially impressive.
“Men don’t like to get ‘chicked,’” she said, referring to being passed by a woman. “But they got chicked today.”
Among the other notable finishers of today’s race were Bill Rodgers, who served as Official Starter of the mass race to mark 40 years since his last victory here, in 1978 (58:09); Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter (1:28:19); three-time Super Bowl champion Tedy Bruschi (1:08:06); and NASA astronaut Sunita Williams (1:12:47). Reigning Boston Marathon champion Des Linden ran among the masses after sounding the starting horn as the Official Starter for the elite women’s race. She finished in 45:15, her first time running this race.
“It’s beautiful,” she said of the course. “It helps you forget it’s really hard. Some really impressive things have been done on this course. It’s cool to cover it and it would be really fun to race it.”
About Falmouth Road Race
The New Balance Falmouth Road Race was established in 1973 and has become one of the premier running events of the summer season. Each year the race draws an international field of Olympians, elite and recreational runners out to enjoy the iconic 7-mile seaside course. The non-profit Falmouth Road Race, Inc. organization is committed to promoting health and fitness through community programs and philanthropic giving.