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Falmouth Road Race

Olympian Molly Seidel set for back-of-the-pack run at Falmouth Road Race

Molly Seidel, who won a bronze medal in the marathon at the Tokyo Games, will run at the back of the pack in Falmouth, with a dollar donation to Tommy's Place for every runner she passes.HIROKO MASUIKE/NYT

It’s not often that an Olympic runner — especially one fresh off a bronze medal finish — begins her race at the back of the pack.

But Molly Seidel, the third US woman to medal in the Olympic marathon, will do just that in the Falmouth Road Race on Sunday.

Because she’s mere days out from a lifetime performance in 100-degree heat in Tokyo, Seidel’s goal isn’t to win. Instead, she’ll be the very last person to begin the 7-mile race, and for each participant she passes, Falmouth Road Race, Inc., will donate one dollar to Tommy’s Place, a local Falmouth charity. She will run alongside her sister, Isabel.

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“Running is such an individual sport that any time you get the opportunity to do it for something bigger than yourself, it’s really special,” Seidel said. “Especially for a foundation that is so closely connected to the Massachusetts community … is really cool.”

Falmouth will also include an elite mile race, with a field that includes eight elite male athletes, eight elite female athletes, and one pacer. The elite mile takes place on Saturday while the main event — the 7-mile run — will begin on Sunday morning.

Although Seidel won’t run with the elite group as she typically would, Falmouth is in no way short on Olympic-level talent. Leonard Korir, who took home the top spot in 2019, finished 14th in the 10,000-meter run in the 2016 Rio Games. That same year, he took home gold in the New York City Half Marathon.

In 2017, a photo finish left Korir as the Falmouth runner-up, and he took third in 2018. After finally winning it all two years ago, Korir is back for more.

“I’ve been working hard,” Korir said. “This year, after running the course, I know everything about the course, I have the experience, and right now I’m so happy to be coming in as the defending champion.”

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The entire men's open podium from the 2019 race — Stephen Sambu, winner Leonard Korir, and third-place finisher Edward Cheserek — are expected to compete again in Falmouth this weekend.Merrily Cassidy/The Cape Cod Times via AP

Korir and Seidel headline an international group of elite runners for which the Falmouth Road Race has become known. In addition to Korir, other past winners include Benjamin Flanagan, the men’s 2018 winner; Stephen Sambu, who won four straight from 2014-2017; and Sharon Lokedi, the women’s 2019 winner.

“We’ve helped to build a lot of great relationships over the past 40-plus years, so our elite program is a very strong one,” said executive director Jennifer Edwards. “We’re super excited to have some very big names here, some coming directly from the Olympics.”

Still, the Falmouth Road Race is a community event, open to runners of all speeds. Edwards said she and her team expect 8,000 participants, as the race returns to its course after an at-home version in 2020. That number is a decrease from the approximately 12,000 in 2019, but the spirit of community is still present.

“From one point to another, there are a lot of people running the race, and even more people cheering for you,” Korir said.

Falmouth has long been a hallmark of East Coast running, and approaching its 50th year, the race has garnered plenty of national attention.

“I mean, it’s one of the most historic road races in the US,” Seidel said. “And I think just the general attitude of the race makes it really fun, and it’s always highly competitive. I think it’s just that combination of really storied history and the continued commitment to elite racing that keeps bringing professionals back.”

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