Arts and Culture
Food and Wine
People and Places
Science and Nature
Travel and Lodging
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
Home » PEOPLE AND PLACES » CONNECTICUT » Running Manchester with 15,000 of Your Closest Friends and Neighbors
The Manchester Road Race 2010     BY: Al Terryberry
Running Manchester with 15,000 of Your Closest Friends and Neighbors

The Manchester Road Race 2010

By Sam L. Rothman | December 06, 2010

The Manchester Road Race was once again a spectacular success this Thanksgiving with thousands of runners taking part, including ONE correspondent Sam L. Rothman.

Ray Priest
BY & COPYRIGHT: Al Terryberry

Through the cold morning air Bob, his son Jacob and I make our way to the starting corral on Main Street.   Ray is already there, standing patiently in his signature yellow shirt and turquoise running shorts. Like most of the runners, joggers and walkers at the Manchester Road Race we are here for a good time and a good run with 15,000 of our closest friends and neighbors.

Ray however is a little more serious. The reigning 70+ age group champion, he is eager to defend his title. Held annually on Thanksgiving morning, Manchester is not just a holiday tradition, it is also a serious and highly competitive road race and one of the nation’s premier running events.

We stand silently shivering, hats in hands during the National Anthem and then cheer with the 20,000 spectators who are packed around us on the sidewalks. All eyes turn toward the start, which sits below a huge welcoming banner. Warmth and good cheer envelop the runners, though someone forgot to tell the weatherman; the temperature is hovering in the mid-30s.

A Trio in Red, White & Blue
BY & COPYRIGHT: Al Terryberry

Lined up far ahead of us stand two rows of future and former Olympians, national collegiate champions and elite runners from around the world.   Stretching far behind us are the perhaps less gifted but more creatively dressed runners.   A patriotic trio clad only in red-white and blue prepares to run an American flag the entire 4.8 miles. Firefighters in full gear, men in tutus and women in matching pink tops strain to hear the race starter.

There are a few words from former race winner and chairperson, Judi St. Hilaire and a brief countdown. At exactly 10AM the race is off.   The eventual men’s winner Mourad Marofit of Morocco is quickly leading the pack.   Not far behind, Sally Kipyego, a Kenyan, is already leading the women. Amazingly this is only the second road race ever for Kipyego who earned eight NCAA track and cross-country championships for Texas Tech.

From our position in the 35 to 40 minute corral we can’t see the leaders. It will be close to a minute before we even reach the starting line.   As we accelerate down Main Street we see only the wall of runners straining for the first turn that will take us up Highland Street.

The Race is On!
BY & COPYRIGHT: Al Terryberry

A bit of road racing advice: always take street names seriously! Highland Street is a good case in point, the “high” part being at the end of a steep mile long climb. My lungs burn and my legs have lost their spring before I reach the peak.

My friends Bob and Ray are now out of sight, but I am far from alone on the course. A party is in full swing on a rooftop to the right. With beer cans held high, even the family dog is celebrating wildly. A guy in jeans is offering up cans of iced Coors. Runners are always told to carry an ID in case of emergencies. Does this qualify? Nearing the halfway mark, it’s obvious that many around me could use the refreshment.

The race is now in a suburban part of town with cheering faces on every lawn. Garage bands blare encouraging rock anthems from their driveways. A trombone quartet and a bag piper similarly lend their distinctive tunes to the rhythm of the race before it turns down Porter Street. A boom box is blaring the theme from Rocky.

Old and Young alike run together
BY & COPYRIGHT: Al Terryberry

Here, between miles two and three, I’m thankful for the laws of physics: “What goes up must come down!” The pace accelerates and my stride finally opens up as the road begins to fall away.

But shins start to ache as feet pound hard on the downhill. Forces of several thousand pounds per square inch echo up a runner’s leg on a steep downhill, but today I won’t feel those aches until after the race is done. Instead, I’m carried along by the cheering crowds. Some hold up hand painted signs: “Go Daddy Go,” “Run Tommy We Love You!” and “This Way to your TURKEY dinner.”

The pace levels off again as the race turns onto East Center Street. My legs are rubbery by this point and lungs burning after 30 minutes of gulping down the cold morning air. The race leaders have long since finished, but runners and walkers are still stretched for miles behind me.   The winning time was 21:39, many will take an hour longer than that to finish.

Fred Flintstone and Friend
BY & COPYRIGHT: Al Terryberry

I notice a few of the costumes around me. There are several varieties of turkey hat and a place setting of seven-foot high silverware is accompanied by a gravy dish with legs. A hula dancer immodestly retrieves his dropped grass skirt to the laughter and cheers of bystanders. Runners may be healthy, but they are not immune from wardrobe malfunctions. A brightly attired local couple takes a break at mile four and wave to the cameras.

I make the sharp left onto Main Street buoyed by the view of the finish line now just a third of a mile away, and mostly downhill.   My Manchester run has been a blur of color, sound and early winter cold. I can’t believe it’s almost over!

The streets are still packed and the cheers are deafening. A runner ahead of me is high-fiving the crowd. Ray has already finished – successfully defending his title. At age 70 we should all be able to run 4.8 miles in 37 minutes!

The New York Marathon is bigger, Boston has a longer pedigree, but few races, few New England traditions can match Manchester. I cross the finish line.   Panting, I grab a bottle of water, look for my running pals and think about another holiday tradition – my family and the turkey dinner waiting for me at home.

Share |
ONE is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.