I’m sure by now you have seen some news coverage of the Manchester Road Race on TV or in your social media feeds. And, I bet you were blown away by the race finish times the elite runners managed to clock in at – I know I was! Yes, these amazing racers deserve the press for what they do, but I also felt that the news fell a little short on another important part to the story – the people and town of Manchester, Connecticut. So this Manchester native will be sharing with you why her hometown road race is the best one in the universe!
Are you ready?
Wearing the flare: I was practically giddy when I signed up for the 79th Annual Manchester Road Race, after my brother gave me the green light that he was going to host Thanksgiving in our hometown, this year. I received my packet in the mail, a week later, which included the 2015 race shirt. How many of you have your old race shirts? Here’s mine from 1999!
A morning stroll: A huge perk to living in Manchester during one of the biggest races in the nation, is that you can walk to the starting line. Don’t worry about not knowing where to go if you are from out-of-town, just follow the streams of people – they are all going to the same place!
Record breaking crowds: The MRR (yes, we even have an acronym for this race) was founded in 1927 with only 12 participants, but it has rapidly grown to about 15,000 racers and around 35,000 spectators over the past few years. I have been both a racer and spectator, for many years, and the crowds still amaze me! The “running” joke among the racers after the gun goes off is how long it will take to reach the actual starting line – it took our racing group 7 minutes to officially start the race.
The Manchester landmarks: As I approached the first mile, I ran by the Hungry Tiger on Hartford Road, and could instantly recall the countless times I had been there to eat with my family or watched the local bands while I hung out with friends. About a mile later, I ran by Highland Park Market. How many Manchester moms
lived shopped, at this place? I felt like my mom would drag us out here daily when I was a kid! My brother’s first job was at Highland Park Market.
I know what you out-of-towners are thinking…that every hometown has their landmarks, but was yours featured on Family Guy?
The MRR hill: Along with catching a glimpse of Highland Park Market, also came the Highland Street hill. This progressive incline goes on for about a mile and separates the mice from the men – am I right?! What I love about this part of the race are the comments of the runners around me when they realize that the hill continues up Camp Meeting Road at an even steeper incline, past the Highland Park Market corner. I would chuckle every time I’d hear the groans. Amateurs.
Air guitars and music: The Manchester Road Race had the music thing in the bag well before the Rock’n’Roll Marathon Series came onto the scene. Our local bands, home stereos blasting along the sides of the road and even bagpipes make their musical debut here! Also, keep your limbs warmed up, because the famous musical stretch, on Porter Street, gets your hands up in the air for the “YMCA” and your fists pumping for the Rocky theme song. DRAGO!
A blast from the past: As I approached the last mile and a half, back to Main Street, I looked to my left and saw the East Cemetery. My Grandma Towle is resting there, but I believe she was spectating that day. Kisses to heaven, grammy.
I looked over to my right saw my childhood home! Wow, what a feeling it was run by the old neighborhood again. I snapped a quick picture, even though it looks nothing like the home I remember…
The characters you run with: Along with it being the best race in the universe, the MRR is also the most entertaining with many people dressed up! I remember, as a kid, pointing out all the neat costumes with my dad, uncle and cousins. This year I was able to run with a family of Elvises, Forrest Gump, an air traffic controller – even Superman and Wonder Women came out for a jog.
American pride: This has always been the overall theme for the many years I have been at the race. People wave their flags, runners paint themselves with red, white and blue and spectators play American anthems along the race route.
Family: As I walked back to my brother’s, in anticipation for the Thanksgiving dinner, I was able to reflect on today’s run along with all my past race memories. It’s not just a race to us Manchester natives – Manchester is the race and the race is Manchester. That’s the way it is, and the way it will always be on Thanksgiving. I honestly felt like something was missing the years I didn’t get to run and this year, being back in my hometown, helped me fill that void. When I arrived home after Thanksgiving, I opened a text from one of my cousins (also a native of Manchester) with this picture attached.
How could The Manchester Road Race not be the best race in the universe?