One of the oldest road races in the U.S.A. occurs every Thanksgiving day in Manchester, Connecticut. It's the Manchester Road Race. This race is much more than just a race though. It's a celebration of family and life. Many people get dressed up in costumes, some of which have a Thanksgiving theme like pilgrims or turkeys. Still others find their own unique way to dress for the occasion. For instance, Safety Man, with his orange jumpsuit, helmet, and flashlights is a well known regular. There seems to always be several people dressed up is complete body standex too, sometimes green or orange in color. Sure, there are elite athletes from all over the world vying to win the 4.75 mile loop race too, but the majority are neighbors, family, and friends.
You don't have to run the race either to take part in the festivities. Many spectators line the course, from the beginning on Main Street to the end near St. James Church. Runners, walkers, wheelchair participants, and spectators are treated to the various bands and music along the course. One minute you're being entertained by a Scottish band playing bagpipes. Just around the corner, a local rock band is playing, followed by a stereo system blaring the theme song for Rocky. Spectators get to see some of the fastest runners in the world, some of which will most likely represent their countries in the Olympics and other world class events in the future.
After the elite atheletes pass, everyone looks for their family and friends who are running in the race. With the mass of humanity running, it's a tall order to find people unless you coordinate your spectating location to the runners. But it's fun to try and find them and see if you can snap a picture of them in their moment of glory or agony, whichever state you find them in. A number of businesses also stay open and reap the benefits of the occasion too, like the Hungry Tiger, a restaurant/bar located just before the one mile mark on the course.
From a technical standpoint, the race, with its under 30, 35, and 40 minute passes, gives faster runners a preferential starting spot, which is earned by running either the previous year's race under 40 minutes or running another qualifying race during the year per guidelines on the race's website. So if you want to get a spot in one of the three card areas, you have to do your homework to get a pass. One good note is the race committee lowered the standards to qualify a year or so ago.
I enjoyed the race this year even though I didn't crack the 35 minute barrier. I missed it by 8 seconds though and I'll get an under 40 card again based on my performance this year. I also got to spent time with some of my friends at the Army/Navy Club after the race. We enjoyed some spirits and several shots from the Mrs. Butterworth bottle, which contains some alcoholic concoction to warm your soul. So if you're planning to be in the area for Thanksgiving I suggest you check out the race. If you do plan to run, make sure you register well ahead a time. This year 15,000 people signed up and they had to close registrations a day and a half ahead of time. The website is http://www.manchesterroadrace.com/.