HODGE AND FALMOUTH GROW TOGETHER
August 26, 1984
Bobby Hodge had been temporarily retired from running competitively on the roads when, in 1974, he read of a race in Falmouth. Vin Fleming, someone he had raced against when they were at Johnson & Wales, finished 10th. Hodge figured it was time to return.
“I saw the names of a couple of people I knew in the top 10,” Hodge said yesterday. “I was out of school at the time. I was working at Raytheon. I decided to go back to school at the University of Lowell in January 1975, and I started training hard that winter.”
Today is the 12th Falmouth Road Race and Hodge, at the age of 29, is preparing to run it for the seventh time. He has never finished out of the top 10 since returning to the roads in 1975, when he came in fifth at Falmouth.
The only runner with a better record is Bill Rodgers, who burst on the Falmouth scene as a relative unknown. Rodgers won the race three times (1974, 1977, 1978), finished second to Frank Shorter twice (1975, 1976), was third once (1979) and was 16th in his last Falmouth in 1980.
Hodge has finished 5th (1975), 7th (1976), 8th (1978), 4th (1980), 9th (1982) and 10th (1983). What he remembers about Falmouth 1975 is the fact that 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist Shorter included it on his schedule,
because a bartender named Tommy Leonard had a vision.
“It was mostly the presence of Shorter,” said Hodge. “I think everybody was awed that he was there. At that stage he was a big name coming in. Falmouth was one of the first to start that. Whereas Rodgers was making big strides toward being one of the best, bringing Shorter in was a big move.”
So Hodge was now committed on his quiet road toward excellence in Falmouth and beyond. “In 1976, it was the first real big year,” he said. “They had something like 800 runners. That was unbelievable. I’ve still got clippings at home saying, 800 runners can’t be wrong about Falmouth.’ “
By the time Hodge returned to finish eighth in 1978, running his earlier times wasn’t good enough. “It was almost like the best New England finishers, except Rodgers, were 25th,” said Hodge. “Everybody was coming in to run in it. The times I’ve run in the last two years would have won the race in its early years.
“You can’t name any one thing why this race caught on. It was just everything meshing together at the right time. It coincided with the whole running boom. You had a race with the two best American marathon runners (Shorter, Rodgers) and you had everybody coming in to knock them off. Plus, the setting of the race is dramatic.”
Hodge’s best race was in 1980, when New Zealand’s Rod Dixon put his international stamp of approval on Falmouth. Hodge was there 6 miles into the race, and was second as they went up by the hill near the old Brothers 4 entering Falmouth Heights.
“I didn’t know too much about Dixon,” said Hodge. “I knew if he was there at the end, he could outkick me. I didn’t know what kind of shape he was in. Myself, Dixon and (Herb) Lindsay were there at 6 miles. Dixon made a strong surge there and pulled away from us.
“I ran with Lindsay. I was in second at the top of the hill. (Rick) Rojas came by me on one side when I didn’t even know he was there and Lindsay went by me on the other side. That was my best race in Falmouth. I feel I’ve run consistently well, but I’ve run better races than I’ve run here. It’s a matter of gutting it out here. I was lucky to get 10th last year.”
Hodge, who finished third in the 1979 Boston Marathon and currently works as the director of the grass-roots program for runners at New Balance, said the key to running this race well is the first 3 miles through the rolling
hills leaving Woods Hole to the beach by Surf Drive.
“It’s definitely the first 3 miles,” said Hodge. “It can zap you. You can drive over the course and you don’t realize what the hills are like. There are so many twists and turns. Usually they thrash the first mile. If you can keep in good control the first 2 miles and work the third, you’re in good shape.
“I think my mistake the last two years was going out too fast. At the mile, you have 40 guys in the lead pack. I hit the wall at the third mile, then I recovered and managed to hold my place. At the finish, it usually breaks up. If you’re there at 4 miles, the chances are you’ll be hanging on and be very close at the end.”
Hodge ran 23:06 in the Agawam 5-miler last weekend to finish fifth. He ran 23:12 in the same race last year, and training partner Brad Hurst told him it was a good barometer. “I was pleased,” said Hodge. “I haven’t felt real good this week.
“I was running last night with Brad, and he said if I ran the next 2 miles in 10 minutes I’d have run 33:06 for 7 miles. That’s pretty much an equivalent of Falmouth. I guess it was a good barometer. If I can run that I should have a good shot at getting in the top 10. But 11th to 16th place are a matter of matter of 5-10 seconds apart. I’ve run better every year; I’m getting faster but my place is worse.”
Hodge has the 21st-best time (32:38) on the course and is the 14th-fastest performer. He may not run it forever, but he is already a part of its history. “It’s the same for me as anybody else,” said Hodge. “I’ll come to the Cape and run. Whether or not I take part, I’ll still be down to watch it.”
In attendance at the race will be founder Leonard, who disagreed with the change of sponsorship. Leonard just couldn’t miss road running’s biggest summer clambake. “All I want to say,” said Leonard, “is let the race begin and the dance to follow.”