By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
WARREN, CONN. (26-Nov) — As a wet, heavy snow continues to fall here in Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills, the city of Manchester –about 50 miles (80 km) to the east– is getting much the same treatment from winter storm Ariana one day ahead of the 78th Manchester Road Race. About six inches (14 cm) have already fallen, with more expected.
“That’s going to be the general theme for the rest of the day,” WFSB-TV meteorologist Mark Dixon told his viewers a few hours ago of the ongoing snowfall. He continued: “Out of here after midnight.”
That should set the stage for a rare “White Thanksgiving” in this New England state, with snow bordering the Manchester Road Race’s unique 4.748-mile loop.
“I think it’s going to be perfect,” said Olympian Donn Cabral, speaking by telephone from his parent’s home in Glastonbury, not far from Manchester. “I think the snow will stop in the middle of the night. It won’t get traveled on in the middle of the night. It should be as picturesque as Central Connecticut can be.”
Cabral, who has been running the race since he was 8 years-old, is just one member of a strong elite field, led by defending champions Sam Chelanga and Alice Kamunya, both of Kenya. Chelanga survived a 4:13 first mile last year by Aaron Braun, to win in 21:31.6, about 8 seconds ahead of Braun who later admitted he had gone out too aggressively Chelanga used the big downhill in the second half to get away.
“You know, when you get the downhill everybody’s going to run, like, good, because it’s downhill,” he told Race Results Weekly after last year’s race. “So I decided maybe to shake things up and get a gap on the road.”
Braun is back again this year, along with American compatriots Ben True, Andrew Colley, Maverick Darling, Trevor Dunbar, and Bobby Mack. Braun was the last American to win the race in 2012.
Kamunya was a surprise winner last year. She entered the race on her own and wore bib number 12402. This year she competes as an invited athlete, and will face a very strong group of challengers led by Olympic silver medalist, Sally Kipyego, who has won at Manchester twice, in 2010 and 2011.
“I’m excited because it’s the first race of the season,” Kipyego said in a telephone interview from Manchester. “I’m ready to kick off my 2015 campaign.”
Kipyego, who will fly to Kenya for two months of training after tomorrow’s race, isn’t overly concerned about the snow.
“I think the snow will make it a little more challenging,” she said. “It’s November, the fun part of the year, basically. The fall is when you’re getting your feet under you. We’re trying to get a base before I go to altitude.”
Other key players in the women’s race include American Olympian Janet Bawcom, and former NCAA stand-outs Juliet Bottorf (Duke), Emily Lipari (Villanova), Sarah Crouch (Western Washington), Marielle Hall (Texas), Lauren Penney (Syracuse), Nicole Schappert (Villanova), and Katie Matthews (Boston University). Genet Beyene (Ethiopia) and Diane Nukuri (Burundi) round out the international field.
An additional element in this year’s race will be the King and Queen of the Hill competition, a $1000 prime awarded to the first man and woman to reach the crest of Highland Street Hill near the race’s two-mile marker. To earn the prime, runners need to also finish in the top-10.
“Other road races have done this with a lot of success,” said Dave Prindiville, elite runner coordinator for the Manchester Road Race Committee through a statement. “We believe the prizes will generate enthusiasm among the elite athletes and make the race even more exciting for our spectators.”
The overall champions will earn $4000, and Kipyego said that would be a nice way wrap up this phase of her training.
“Oh, absolutely; I’d love to win,” Kipyego said. “I always like to win. I’m healthy, and all things are good. Hopefully, I can do that.”
PHOTO: Sam Chelanga (left) pulls away from Aaron Braun to win the 2013 Manchester Road Race (Photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)