By Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, Used with Permission
FALMOUTH, Mass (13-Aug) -- Now in it's 39th year, the New Balance Falmouth Road Race hasn't changed much since the early contests, when Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers ruled the seven mile stretch from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights. Competitors still start at one bar and end at another, passing Nobska Light, sunbathers, and boaters in between.
But new this year is the amount of prize money awarded to the top American finishers. The top ten American men and women will receive the same amount of money as the top overall open finishers, with double dipping permitted.
The male and female winners of tomorrow's race will take home $10,000, while the runner-up pockets $5,000 and third place gets $2,000. The top-three Americans will earn $10,000, $5,000, and $2,000, respectively, the same as the top three overall finishers. Essentially, the top-ten spots, both open and American, will earn the same amount of money. If an American finishes in the top ten, then he or she gets to keep both the open money and American money earned.
"We are pleased to be able to offer this prize money opportunity to our American athletes," said Christine Frazier, President of the event's board of directors in a statement last month. "It follows Falmouth's tradition of being the first race, in 1996, to guarantee American prize money awards and coincides with the first year of the ten-year title sponsorship of New Balance."
The change to equal-prize money on the open and American stage could result in a change of strategy for athletes tomorrow. American men and women might choose to race conservatively, focusing solely on gaining the top-US spot, rather than try to push a hot pace in the beginning, risking a big pay day if caught.
"I think it definitely will [impact strategy]," said Emily Brown of Team USA Minnesota. "But I hope that it's not just a race between the Americans and everybody else, though, because for our country to be successful, we need to be racing with the top from other countries too."
But no matter the strategy, the number of top American athletes making their way to the East coast are out in full force. Among the leading men are Ed Moran, last year's top American finisher here, USA Half-Marathon champion Mo Trafeh, and three-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman. McMillan Elite's Brett Gotcher, Colorado-based Jason Hartmann, and Mammoth Track Club's Patrick Smyth are also entered.
"It's like a national championship," said Trafeh. "When guys see $10,000 on the line for Americans, it brings a national championship field here. There might be some guys who are racing just for American prize money, but then there are guys who are really competitive, and my goal with whatever move anybody makes, is to race for first [overall]."
The women's race features Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, who is fresh off a personal best 5000m in Stockholm (15:14.25), as well as fellow Olympic marathoner Blake Russell, Adriana Nelson, and Emily Brown.