Cape Cod Marathon Half-Marathon: An Interview with Race Director Courtney Bird

A few weeks ago, Cape Cod Marathon officials worked out a plan with the town of Falmouth for adding a half marathon to the Cape Cod Marathon weekend, traditionally held the last Sunday of October. We managed to track down race director Courtney Bird to get the full details of the new race.

CCAC: We hear reports that Cape Cod Marathon weekend will now feature a half-marathon race.  Why is the Falmouth Track Club adding another race to what has become a very successful marathon and relay event?
CCM: Over the years we have been repeatedly asked if we have a half with our event. Until last year, the answer was "no" because the presumed logistics would be too great to add one. The race HQ, parking, etc. are maxed out on Sunday and to dump another big batch of runners on the road would have created big problems. But we revisited the idea last fall because our competition all have half marathons as part of the event. We formed a committee to examine the issue and (a) decided to add a half and (b) stage it on Saturday. By adding the half we projected a total field of about 3,000 runners for all three events. That size we hope will make the CCM more attractive to potential sponsors. That would provide an enhanced revenue stream for the FTC and increase the economic impact on the town.

CCAC: What awards will be presented for the half-marathon?
CCM: We plan to offer about $4,000 in prize money as well as merchandise awards. We are in the process of determining the structure, but we plan to spread the money around  including in the age groups. So with first place money at $500.00, I don’t expect we’ll attract an elite field. But I would expect, we’ll see some good regional runners, especially because the marathon is again the USATF-NE Grand Prix Championship. We will also give medallions to all finishers. One aspect we are working on is giving awards to runners who do both the half and whole similar to what Disney and Bermuda do.

CCAC: Will an elite field be recruited or is this a race for locals and mere mortals instead?
CCM: We do not see this event as elite at all.  Mortals are our target runners, be they local or from afar.

CCAC: Can you give us a hint what the course will look like?
CCM: It is a variant of the old "River Dogs" half marathon course that ran in Falmouth in mid-March for about 3 years about 5 or 6 years ago. The race will start on Main Street at the CCM starting line at 7:30 am and then turn down Walker Street to surf drive. The course will turn east following the FRR course, make a loop off of Scranton Ave, then back to Surf Drive to the Bike Path, down the bike Path to Woods Hole and then follow the Marathon Course past Nobska Light,  do part of the Coffee-O course in reverse and finish in Town Hall Square. Except for the rolling hills for about 3 miles around Nobska Light, the course is pretty flat.

CCAC: Most marathon/half-marathon couplets run the same day.  Why did you choose to run the half-marathon on Saturday and leave the marathon on Sunday?
CCM: The reasons were that (a) we could utilize our existing facilities, parking, etc.; (b) we would not disrupt our existing Sunday race organization, logistics, volunteer base with a Saturday race; (c) while we would use our existing infrastructure for marketing, registration, and administration, we’ll have a separate half marathon director with his or her own volunteer cadre to handle race day logistics (course monitors, waterstops, medical, and start and finish area management); (d) the economic impact on Falmouth would be greater because more folks would come for the weekend, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, shopping in stores. Based on surveys of runners in previous years, we expect that the economic impact on Falmouth will increase from about $1.3 million to $1.8 million. It would create a real Cape Cod Marathon Running Festival! For the first year we plan to limit the field to 800 because we want to make sure that our systems work well and that we can focus on quality rather then quantity. If things go smoothly, then we’d consider increasing the field incrementally in future years.

CCAC: Is this perhaps a sign that you’ll be making marathon weekend a destination event for families and adding a family 5K or kids mile to the calendar?
CCM: That is one of the goals. The FTC already provides financial support to running programs in the Falmouth Schools and certainly tying that into marathon weekend certainly makes sense. But this year we’re going to focus on the mechanics of adding the half.

CCAC: Will the half-marathon be making a bid for a USATF-NE Grand Prix slot or will that be an honor that remains with the marathon?
CCM: For the time being, we hove no plans to bid the half. Traditionally, the half marathon has been a spring race in the GP series and the marathon has been a fall event. That tradition has worked well over the years.

CCAC: The marathon and the Falmouth Track Club have a long history of donating proceeds to worthy causes in town.  Does the half-marathon have a special charity recipient?
CCM: Not specifically. Our goal has always been to donate to a variety of local charitable and community-based non-profits. Last year the FTC,  through the CCM, donated $22,900 to some 33 different organizations.  Our hope is that we’ll be able to increase that.

CCAC: With sponsors like New Balance, Staples and Dunkin’ Donuts, the marathon and relay events have been able to expand into first-class, high caliber events.  Will the half-marathon have similar sponsor backing and has a primary sponsor been named yet?
CCM: We are working on a half marathon sponsor.

CCAC: With a field cap of 800 and potentially strong interest in this new event, when will registration be open?
CCM: Registration will open on Feb 1st.

CCAC: Marathon weekend isn’t complete of course without Courtney dancing to the tunes of the Baja Brothers.  What kind of celebration is on tap for Saturday afternoon … or do the poor half marathoners have to wait 24 hours for their party?
CCM: Right now that has not been firmed up, so as of now they’ll have to wait. But in the meantime, they can amuse themselves by running the marathon and/or relay on Sunday and partying in a variety of local watering holes on Saturday evening.

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For more information on the Cape Cod Marathon Half, stay tuned to the Cape Cod Marathon website and don’t forget – registration opens 1 February 2011.

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