RRW: Manchester Road Race To Be Held With Limited Field For 2020

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2020 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

(20-Aug) — One of road running’s great Thanksgiving Day traditions, the Manchester Road Race founded in 1927, will continue this year as an in-person event, organizers announced today.  The 84th edition of the hilly, 4.748-mile race in central Connecticut will be limited to 500 on-course runners, while thousands more will be able to participate virtually.  With about 10,000 finishers, the event is traditionally the second-largest road race in New England each year behind only the Boston Marathon.

The start of the 2015 Manchester Road Race (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

The state of Connecticut has one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country (test positivity rate under 1%), and outdoor gatherings of up to 500 people are permitted as long as social distancing can be maintained.  To ensure that runners have plenty of room on the course, the race will be started in waves of 25 runners sent down Main Street in five-minute intervals.  There will not be an invited elite field this year and the race will not award prize money as usual.  All finishers will be scored based on net time.

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The 500 entrants will be selected from the pool of runners who first register for the virtual Manchester Road Race and pay the $20 entry fee.  Runners who wish to compete in the in-person race on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, will be able to indicate that when they register for the virtual race.  Only persons who sign up for the virtual race will be eligible for selection to compete on Thanksgiving Day, organizers said.  The 500 runners will be selected from all age groups for both men and women based on the times those runners achieved at the 2018 and 2019 editions of the race.

“Obviously, due to the COVID-19 health crisis, this year’s 84th annual Manchester Road Race will look and be much different from all of our past events,” said Dr. Tris Carta, president of the Manchester Road Race Committee through a media release.  “But we sincerely believe that by utilizing this hybrid approach, we can safely keep the town’s Turkey Day tradition alive in a manner that is totally consistent with state public health mandates.”

The race typically begins at 10:00 a.m., but this year will begin two hours earlier to accommodate all of the wave starts.

Most of America’s top fall road races have been cancelled as in-person events due to the pandemic, including the Chicago and New York marathons; Army 10-Miler in Washington, D.C.; and the B.A.A. Half-Marathon in Boston.  Yesterday, the Atlanta Track Club announced that the AJC Peachtree Road Race, America’s largest fully-timed running event with over 60,000 finishers in 2019, would not be held in 2020 as an in-person race.  The event had been postponed from July 4th to Thanksgiving Day (there will be a virtual version of the race, however).  Thanksgiving Day is the most popular day for staging road races in the United States, with hundreds of “turkey trots” contested throughout the country.

The Manchester Road Road Race has not been held every year since its founding.  Between 1935 and 1944 it was not contested due to the Great Depression and World War II.  It has been held every year since restarting in 1945 –even in extreme weather– and women officially began racing in 1974.  Race champions include some of the greatest-ever distance runners like Eamonn Coghlan of Ireland (1981 to 1983), Mary Slaney (1993), and Deena Kastor (1998 and 1999).  Amby Burfoot (9) and Amy Rudolph (5) have the most race victories.  Burfoot has run the race for 57 consecutive years.

“The exigencies of the horrible coronavirus Pandemic have forced us to scale our operations and events way back this year,” added Carta.  “But we hope and pray that the Manchester Road Race as we know it will be back even bigger and better in 2021.”

Registration will begin on October 1 at manchesterroadrace.com.