WELLFLEET — The first Wellfleet Road Race took place on July 4th, 1975. It was the brainchild of the late Brewster Fox, who wanted to get more young people to enjoy running. He enlisted the help of his friend, Nauset Regional High School English teacher Bob Morse, to organize it. Morse and John Gray, another Nauset teacher, recruited high school students to run the race. The routes — five miles out and back from Mayo Beach to Great Island filled with rolling hills and views of the bay for the adults, and two-and-a-half miles out and back on Chequessett Neck Road for the kids — were set, volunteers gathered, and Aesop’s Tables restaurant and the Fox’s Den gift shop provided prizes.
The 47th annual Wellfleet Road Race was this past Sunday, a week after its usual July 4th date. The weather was about 70 degrees and humid, the tide was low, and the T-shirts were light blue with a design by Wellfleet’s Neal Nichols Jr.
In the men’s race, Miles Aronow of West Hartford, Conn., a varsity cross-country and track athlete at Wesleyan University running his first Wellfleet Road Race, pulled away from recent Saint Olaf University graduate Michael Finn of Truro and Arlington, Va. just before the halfway point. Aronow crossed the finish line first in 27:06, and just under a minute later Finn crossed the line in second at 28:04.
“The course was beautiful,” said Aronow. “It was wonderful running back and all the other runners were cheering. I was trying to cheer back as much as I could, but I was getting tired.”
Patrick Bugbee of Truro and Cambridge, a former Wellfleet Road Race winner and three-time runner-up who has the finest beard on this side of the Sagamore Bridge, finished third overall and first in the men’s 30-39 division in 28:34.
“I love racing on the Outer Cape,” said Bugbee. “Every time I tell people I’m out here running they think it must be flat running, but there’s just constant rollers. The hills can put you in the hurt locker pretty quick, but if you’re smart about it you can make up ground on the downhills.”
Brooke Hartley of Boston cruised to victory in the women’s race and finished fourth overall in 31:12. She ran an especially strong second half, steadily making her way up through the field. Hartley describes herself as a longer-distance runner and is currently training for the Chicago Marathon. Like many others in the race, it was Hartley’s first time racing in person since before the pandemic.
“Right now, I’m trying to find any race I can to knock the rust off,” she said. “The race was well organized, and it was beautiful running along the water.”
In other men’s results, Aidan Mahoney, 14, won the youth division in 31:20; Ken Merrick won the 50-59 division in 31:56; Jonathan Wyner won the 60-69 division in 37:22; and Mark Leddy won the 70-99 division in 38:52.
For the women, Dana Farkas won the 19-29 division in 34:54; Katherine Greenwald, 14, won the youth division in 35:57; Heidi Wiesel won the 40-49 division in 36:42; Kate Maul won the 50-59 division in 38:43; Susan Spencer won the 60-69 division in 39:36; and Janet Kelly won the 70-99 division in 49:19.
Registration for that first race in 1975 was via Bob Morse’s mailbox. Race day registration was at a card table with magic markers, a pad of paper for bibs, and a box of safety pins. Furiously writing out the numbers was Brewster’s wife, Mary Fox, and underneath the table playing were her young children. “It was quite exciting, really,” said Mary this week.
The familial feel at that first registration table has been integral to the culture of the Wellfleet Road Race. The headline of a Cape Codder article after the third race in 1977 read “Families Score in Wellfleet Road Race.” One family, the Wolffs, had brothers Tom (a UMass runner who became a Nike executive) and Matthew finish first and third in the men’s race and younger brother Francis win the kids’ race.
The other family mentioned was the Sharps. My grandpa Geoffrey won the masters category, my aunts Jeb and Gill finished second and third in the women’s race, and my dad, who was 11, reeled in third in the kids’ race. Once my cousins, siblings, and I were old enough to stand up straight, we were placed at the start line of the kids’ Wellfleet Road Race. For us, July Fourth weekend meant watching the parade, running the race, and downing some post-race root beer floats on the pier.
A few changes were made in the early years. The start was changed from midday to early morning because of the July heat, the kids’ race was shortened to about 1.2 miles, and, after seven years, Brewster Fox handed over control to the Wellfleet Recreation Dept. The race grew steadily, and Mary Fox notes that John Kelly, a two-time Boston Marathon winner for whom the famous “Heartbreak Hill” was named, toed the line at Mayo Beach on more than one occasion.
Kyle Morse, whose dad’s mailbox was stuffed with the original Wellfleet Road Race registration forms 46 years ago, finished this year’s race for what he estimates to be about his 20th time. “My time keeps getting worse and worse and worse,” he said, “but I keep doing it because it’s just so fun.”
At 10:30 a.m., with the dust from the adult race settled, the kids took to the starting line. The race started with the traditional mad dash out of the parking lot, with ear-to-ear smiles on the young racers’ faces evidence that Brewster Fox’s dream to get kids out and enjoying mankind’s most natural sport is alive and well.