Why We Love “The Road Race”

NOVEMBER 22, 2011 — It’s that time of year again in Manchester, Connecticut. Thanksgiving Day and the week of Thanksgiving means family is around, friends come back from wherever they have moved to, and in Manchester it means the Manchester Road Race. We know it’s cliche to say this but the race is unlike any other race in the country – where else do you get 15,000 people to run a 4.748 mile course all at the same time – nowhere. That being said we’ve decided to make a list of our top 4,748 things we love about the road race! Okay, maybe we’ll just keep it to 15.

In no particular order (the numbers just make it easier to read)…

15. At any time of year, to anyone in or around Manchester you can refer to the Manchester Road Race as just “the road race”. We love this because during the conversation no one has to ask which race you are talking about, the event is so popular that it can be referred to in the most generic terms and locals know exactly what the conversation is about.  P.S. it is NOT a “turkey trot”, don’t call it that, it’s offensive.

14. Everyone starts at the same time. You see so many races now that feature a different race for the elites or a different start time. We love the fact that everyone has a chance in Manchester, it’s true racing, man0-a-mano…if you want to get to the front you’re going to have to work for it. The winners get a few grand for taking first, they earn it in Manchester.

13. The course is a complete mystery. Not the actual course we all know where it goes, but to this day (this will be my 18th running) I have not spoken to anyone who knows how to truly master this course. Do you run a hard first mile to get out well only to suffer up the hill? Do you go out slow and run the hill hard? Can I recover on the downhill? So many questions and I have tried running this race with a different strategy 9 times and still haven’t come up with the answer.

12. The elite fields. Manchester has seen some of the greatest runners come down Main St. Not only Olympic Champions but also some of the most popular runners as well. Frank Shorter, Joan Samuelson, a bunch of Kenyans and Ethiopians whose names I can’t spell without looking up, Alan Webb, Marty Fagan, Sally Kipyego, Emilie Mondor, Amby Burfoot, and tons of others!

11. The crowds. This is the only non-marathon I have ever run where the crowds are out and loud throughout the whole course.

10. Waiting for the start. This might be the only day of the year we enjoy waiting in a long line. We try to get there about 15 minutes early just to see all the people lined up for the start. If you are fast enough to get a seed card it’s a little bonus as well, especially when you are younger, it’s almost like being an elite, then the gun goes off and you realize you aren’t very special after all.

9. Tradition and no compromise. We have a friend, we’ll call him Nick Au Yeung, he went to grad school in Oregon and each and every year he comes back for the road race. Obviously he likes his family and appreciates seeing his friends but if there’s one thing he’ll never miss on Thanksgiving, it’s the road race. We love this attitude, no matter how far away a spouse’s family lives, many of us will sacrifice just about anything to be there on Main St. for the race.

8. The history. I bought the book about the Manchester Road Race for the history of it and the fact that you can see all the pictures of this race over the last 75 years, it’s really pretty awesome to be a part of. Just an editor’s personal note here: As far as the book itself goes, don’t expect great literature, a novel, or really even great journalism, it’s not designed for that, the pictures are really what makes it worth buying.

9. The course again. The fact that it is a loop, and just one loop makes it special. You don’t have to cross over the same road twice, you don’t have to run point to point and worry about how to get to the start or finish. Mentally, it makes for an enjoyable race. Sure you have to go up the hill, but you start and finish in the same spot so you must have to go down hill at some point. Speaking of which…

8. The hill. The hill on Highland St. doesn’t have a name, this is why we love it, no one has come up with a catchy slogan like “heartbreak hill” or anything like that – we’ll make sure it stays that way. The hill itself, she is a cruel mistress, and not the part that everyone thinks is so bad either; if we all took a left just after Highland Park Market on to Wyllis we would think much differently of this hill. But alas, we are to continue on and the real punch comes just after the Market where you have to give one last surge after the 2-mile mark. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is where you tell yourself every year “I forgot about this part”.

7. Bagpipes. You heard me. They are all over the course and if an old man in a kilt playing some crazy tunes on the old bag pipes doesn’t get you going, well you need to check your pulse.

6. The people who don’t know about the road race. Okay so this is maybe our least favorite thing but it is worth mentioning. You seriously live in Manchester and don’t know about the road race!? This baffles us. A police sergeant who we work closely with at the Finally Spring 5k! likes to tell us a story; he handles the intersection of Highland St. and Porter on race morning, he makes sure traffic doesn’t get through for the safety of everyone. Well anyway he tells us every year there is always someone who doesn’t know the race is going on and yells at him “I need to get the turkey in the oven now! I’ve never heard of this race, why are they doing it today, what a stupid idea!” and he just smiles and says back to them “75 years ma’am, 75 years we’ve been running this race on this course”.

5. The finish. Apparently we weren’t done talking about the course. “Like the lure of the siren’s song, never what it seems to be, yet who among us can resist?” – had to throw a Seinfeld quote in there. Those who have run it several times before know that we are to wait to unleash our finishing sprint, wait until the road goes uphill once again. One of our favorite things is watching runners sprint down the hill off the turn from Center St. only to be caught and out of breath with a few hundred strides to go. Be careful runners, don’t go too early, it is a long road to the finish!

4. No frills and still a sell out. This is what we like about the participants in the road race! We are blue collar, we make sure it sells out even if “all” we get is the experience. There are no goodie bags, no coddling, no special bag checks, just the bare essentials. The Road Race Committee does an amazing job with just those essentials too! We are glad they don’t give out a goodie bag full of coupons.

3. Hoping that someone from Manchester will one day win this race. We can dream can’t we!?

2. Wind, rain, snow, sleet, sun. I’ll admit some years have been downright miserable, I think 2006 was about 34 degrees and pouring rain, other times it has snowed, and then there are sunny days! No matter the weather we are out there every year.

1. “This is Thanksgiving in Manchester!”  We have been campaigning with the state senate to make this the offical start of Thanksgiving, starting in 2012 Thanksgiving won’t offically begin until these words are spoken.

We’ll see you on Thursday!

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