Manchester Road Race is a Thanksgiving tradition

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Wed., Nov. 14, 2012
The 2012 Manchester Road Race will include up to 15,000 runners. File photo by Martha Marteney.
The 2012 Manchester Road Race will include up to 15,000 runners. File photo by Martha Marteney.

For thousands of people from Manchester and across the world, Thanksgiving begins with the biggest race in Connecticut: the Manchester Road Race. The event always draws runners and spectators in great numbers, and this year will be no exception. “We will hit our max,” said Ken Larson, director of regulations and results for the Manchester Road Race. The maximum number of race participants is 15,000. Speaking Monday, Nov. 12, a little less than two weeks prior to the race, Larson expected to close online registrations on Thursday, Nov. 15, at which point he expected to have 14,000 entries. Runners hoping to snag one of the remaining 1,000 slots will have a chance on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Manchester Road Race Sports Expo, as well as Monday, Nov. 19, and Tuesday, Nov. 20.

For Larson, registering early is crucial for an event that pushes the limits of capacity. “If people don't register, they don't belong on the race course,” said Larson. “It's unfair for people to come to the race and walk or run it without paying, because there's a huge amount of expense that goes into the race, as well as the money we donate to charity.”

By running unpaid, Larson said these people are cheating the system and “causing a congestion problem.” The 15,000 participant limit was determined because “that's what our roads can manage,” he said, and unregistered runners cause overflow. They estimate up to 1,000 people race unpaid each year.

The race generates large amounts of money, which is donated to charity. The Muscular Dystrophy Association and Manchester Area Conference of Churches (MACC) are regular recipients, and about 25 other organizations alternate for awarded funds. Last year, $80,000 was donated by the Manchester Road Race Committee to philanthropic causes. Their goal is to raise $100,000 annually, which they sometimes surpass.

The original Manchester Road Race began when a few high school students went for a run around town. “It's essentially a run around the block,” said Larson. Starting on Main Street, runners go south to take a left onto Charter Oak Street, continuing until it turns into Highland Street, taking a sharp left onto Porter Street, continuing northwest and bearing left onto East Center Street, followed by the last left onto Main and the final stretch to the finish line. The total distance is 4.748 miles. The current course record holder is Phillimon Hanneck, who ran a 21:19 in 1995.

“If you look at the field of runners, we will invite 30 to 50 of some of the best runners in the country,” said Larson. “Actually, some of the best runners in the world.” Race winners are often seen in the Olympics, for example, Glastonbury Olympian Donald Cabral, who competed in the steeple chase at the 2012 Olympics in London, is a past Manchester Road Racer. 

All 50 states are represented in the race, but the concentration is “clearly from Connecticut,” said Larson. While professional runners will be giving their all, the race is well known for runners in wacky, photogenic costumes.

The race begins at 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, Nov. 22. “People really need to be lined up before 9:30 a.m.,” said Larson. “It takes time to get into town, and it takes time to get into the 'start pack.'” The later you arrive, the further back you will be placed in the start pack.

A shuttle bus system from Manchester Community College begins at 7:45 a.m. and continues to 9:15 a.m., though Larson advises runners to be on the shuttle by 9 a.m. Dogs are not allowed on the shuttle, and only umbrella strollers are permitted. Travelers should also note that Main Street will be closed at 7 a.m., and entering from exit 3 off I-384 is not recommended, as it gets congested early.

For more information including parking advice, visit

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