Race Recap: Cape Cod Marathon Half (Updated)

On October 27, 2012, my running friend, her half brother, and I ran the Novo Nordisk Cape Cod Marathon Half. No, I didn’t type that wrong. The race is really called the Marathon Half. The Cape Cod Marathon is in its 35th year and is a Falmouth, MA fall tradition. This year was only the second year for the half marathon option, and the race is named after its big brother. Thus, a marathon half. Race weekend events include the half marathon, marathon, marathon relay, and the Clam Chowdah Challenge (the half and full marathons on back to back days). When my running friend suggested the race, I was intrigued. It’s advertised as a mostly flat, scenic course, and the race winds through Falmouth and along Vineyard Sound. I hadn’t been to Cape Cod, so I signed up.

The registration process for this race was a bit strange. I completed my application, mailed it in, and assumed I was all set. A week or so later, I got an email that said that the race had filled and I was on the waiting list:

We received your half marathon registration form on 9/4/2012; however, as you may or may not know, the race filled on Saturday, August 11.  At this point, you have been placed on a waiting list, on which you are  # 42.  … Last year we had more than 100 runners withdraw and we have reserved some spaces for sponsors which may become available in September.  

I found this very strange. The website still listed spots open in the half marathon, but, sadly, I was wait listed. And, more than 100 people withdrew and were replaced – even more strange. My friend and I decided to wait it out. Sure enough, a few weeks later I got the email that I was selected for the race. Yay!

The night before the race, our little group headed to Cape Cod. We decided the best course of action was to pick up our packets the night before.

We arrived at the packet pick up location, “race headquarters”, to a group of runners milling around outside. Doors were opened promptly at 5pm and we all filed inside the school. Packet pick up was very well organized and completely efficient. We received instructions to come back the next morning for the race – there would be parking at the school.

On race morning, the weather was ideal. It was about 50 degrees, partly sunny, and breezy. Perfect running weather! We suited up and headed to the school to park. Parking was well organized and efficient. A number of volunteers were on hand to guide runners and organize the parking. The school was open and available for warm ups, bathrooms, and pre-race waiting. I was delighted to have a real bathroom to use before the race. The small luxuries of a real stall and soap and running water cannot be underestimated.

From the school, we headed across the playing fields and through an alley. We emerged on Main Street, directly across from the Town Hall Square and lined up. The start was organized chaos. It was a free for all start, no fancy corrals or pace groups here, but everyone seemed to have a good sense of where to line up and what to do.

The course was amazing! It is probably one of the more beautiful and scenic courses I’ve run. I didn’t take pictures along the route (I hadn’t been feeling well and didn’t want to add another complication), but you can see some amazing views from the race organizers here.

The first miles wind through neighborhoods and head out to the coast. Miles 2-3.5 or so are run along Vineyard Sound, on surface streets and past mansions, beach homes, historic camps, and marinas. At approximately mile 4, the course turns and moves onto the Shining Sea Bikeway. The paved bikeway is literally ocean front. There’s the bikeway, some beach scrub trees and bushes, and the sound. The views were amazing and the ocean area was humid and salty. The course continues on the bikeway until approximately mile 6 when it rejoins surface streets and begins the climb up to Nobska Lighthouse. The course is flat in the early miles, but at about 6.5 miles, it begins to climb and continues to feature rolling hills for the remainder of the course. The course turns near Falmouth Harbor (gorgeous views!) and then winds back along Surf Drive and towards town. The “in town” parts of the course are pure New England – a combination of Cape Cod style homes, little beach camps, and mansions, all with a seaside feel. Many miles of the course are directly seaside and the views are truly picturesque.

It is a well-designed course and was well marked on race day. Though the roads were open to traffic, there were helpful volunteers on each corner and the course markings were very clear. Mileage was posted and was accurate.

Despite my appreciation for the beauty and simplicity of the course, I was dissatisfied by one aspect of the race course. The water/fuel stations were not optimally placed and did not seem to be “approximately every 2.5 miles”, as advertised. The first water stop was about 2.5-3 miles in, then the second was at mile 4. There were no water stops on the bike trail. There was a water stop at about mile 7, then one at 9 and another at 10. It was warmer than I expected and I probably wasn’t properly hydrated, so more predictable water stops would have helped me. I didn’t drink enough at the stops at miles 3 and 4 to last through the bike course drought. In the future, I would plan to bring my own water.

The finish line was on Main Street, near the start line. The chute was well organized and festive. Announcers made sure runners were acknowledged and volunteers handed out the super fun medals.

At the finish line area, there were apples and cups for water. The full lunch spread – vegetable soup, rolls, salad, Ocean Spray Cranberry juice, and, inexplicably, clam chowder, was available at the school. There was plenty of food and it tasted delicious. My soup was super hot and handed to me by a smiling volunteer. I still can’t fathom someone eating clam chowder after running a race in warm weather, but some people at it and rumor had it that it was tasty.

Overall, I loved the Cape Cod Marathon Half. It was well organized, well-run, and had an absolutely beautiful course. I would definitely do it again – and recommend it to others.

Rachel and Running friend, post-race

Results can be found here.

Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon Run: Swiftly top (it’s an older one, patterned with flowers, in flash), Lululemon capris, really old, I’m not even certain the name, but fit like the new Run: Track Time capris.


Someone (rightly) pointed out that I didn’t include the elevation chart as I usually do. Sorry about that. Here it is:

And, pictures from the race can be found here and are searchable by bib number.