77th annual Manchester Road Race set for Thanksgiving Day

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Fri., Nov. 15, 2013
More than 15,000 people participated in last year’s Manchester Road Race. File photo by Christian Mysliwiec.
More than 15,000 people participated in last year’s Manchester Road Race. File photo by Christian Mysliwiec.

For local residents, the Manchester Road Race is every bit as popular as their Thanksgiving turkey, and often the turkey dinner has to wait until the tradition of running or watching the annual challenge is over.

"I'm expecting it to be a fantastic year, like every year has been," said Dr. Tris Carta, who is president of the Manchester Road Race committee. When the77th running steps off at 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 28, right in front of St. James Church on Main Street, Carta anticipates there will be 15,000 runners hitting the course. The race will be broadcast live on Fox 61, beginning at 9 a.m.

Aaron Braun of Flagstaff, Ariz., won the race last year with a time of 21:19, and Delilah DiCrescenzo was the first female finisher, with a time of 24:24.

Amby Burfoot, a nine-time winner of the Manchester Road Race and the 1968 Boston Marathon champion, is the honorary chairperson this year. A veteran runner, Burfoot ran his first Manchester Road Race in 1963, and this year he will run in a record 51 consecutive races in an attempt to break the mark of 50 straight races that he currently shares with the late Dr. Charlie Robbins.

In addition to being a great athletic event, the Manchester Road Race is also a charitable activity. “We gave out $121,000 last year,” said Carta. “Every year the first $20,000 we give away is to Muscular Dystrophy because of the history of the road race and them.”

Carta said about 30,000 spectators line the 4.748-mile course on Thanksgiving morning to cheer on the runners, which according to him is what makes the race so special. “My gratitude is always to the people who come out and cheer us on,” said Carta, an avid runner himself. “People say, 'Oh I’m not going to run the race, I’m going to come out and watch it.' I say that’s more important. Being out there for the runners is just the best thing.”

For the spectators around the finish line this year, the Road Race committee will be handing out about 600 small cowbells, with the assistance of Lynch Toyota, Carta said, so if their hands get tired of clapping, they can still make plenty of supportive noise. Also new for this year is the option to purchase long-sleeve cotton t-shirts. The shirts are available at Manchester Hardware on Main Street, Farr’s on North Main Street and Fleet Feet in West Hartford, and cost $25.

One change for this year’s race that might not be so obvious to spectators or runners is an increased security presence during the race, following the bombings at the Boston Marathon this past April. “There’s going to be a much bigger police presence this year,” said Carta, who for security reasons couldn’t elaborate on what those changes will be. He did say that the committee is urging runners and spectators to leave any bags and backpacks at home. “We do not want backpacks to be free,” said Carta. 

The Manchester Road Race is obviously the central event of the holiday weekend, but the committee also organizes a handful of other events. “The next big event in my mind is the blood drive,” said Carta. The blood drive – which is the largest blood drive in Connecticut for a single day - will be held at the Full Gospel Interdenominational Church on Main Street on Friday, Nov. 29, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. All donors will receive a complimentary race t-shirt.

Another big event is the Sports Expo on Saturday, Nov. 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Cone gym at Bennet Academy. The Sports Expo features three events on the Saturday before the race, beginning with the Silk City Striders’ Know Your Pace Race at 8 a.m.  Carta said participants will run the race course, “and the object is to predict how fast you’re going to run it. The winner of the race isn’t the first person who comes across the line, the winner of the race is the person who guesses or predicts their time the best.”
Walk-in registration is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The final element of the day is the health expo. 

Also scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 23, is the Little Manchester Road Race for children 12 and under, which will be held at 10 a.m. at the Bennet Academy soccer field across from Carter Chevrolet. “We have three races; a half-mile race, a mile race and a 2-mile race,” said Carta. Each participant will receive a medal and a sweatshirt provided by Fleet Feet Sports in West Hartford. According to the Manchester Road Race’s website, this event is already sold out. 

After the race, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, the Charlie Robbins club luncheon takes place at noon at the Arbors Retirement Community, and is open to anyone 75 or older who participated in the race. Noting that this event is unique to the Manchester Road Race, Carta said, "You don’t necessarily have to be a runner, you can be a walker.” The speaker for this year’s event is Vic Zwolak, who won the race in 1963.  

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