2008 Manchester Road Race

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and so has another great tradition. Yesterday was the 72nd running of the Manchester Road Race in Manchester, Connecticut, USA. The weather could not have been better for running. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the temperature moved from the mid-30’s(F) to the low-40’s(F) by the end of the 4.748 mile race. Why not five miles? Well, the course hasn’t changed since the beginning. 

This was my 15th MRR in a row, and I think, 18th overall. I saw lots of friends and most of the usual characters. Debbie and I haven’t done much road running lately. Actually, I haven’t done much running at all lately. My last race was The Bluff 50K more than a month ago. I had lots of travel in October and November, so I’m still working out the kinks in my back! 

Regardless, I actually felt pretty good yesterday. I wore my GPS, so I have good data on my splits. 

I ran within my limits and didn’t blow up on the hill. In hindsight, I may have been able to push a bit harder, but I was cautious. I started with ultrarunning friend, Matt Estes, but didn’t see him after the gun went off. I passed my “nemesis” Todd Brown, so he wasn’t a factor in our ongoing see-saw battle. Once again, I was passed by Brett Stoeffler near the top of the hill. If I could only have stuck with him for a mile, I would have been guaranteed to lower my time since he put 50 seconds into me from that point on.

It turns out that the person I paced off of was none other than Joan Benoit Samuelson. After meeting her at the Pasta Dinner the night before the race, I figured I would see her next on TV or in the newspaper, but not during the heat of the race. As it turns out, she performed double duty as the MMR Honorary Chairperson, and then ran the race–going all out. Once I saw her up at the front in the first mile, I knew that she was gunning for the women’s 50+ course record. I led her up the hill before she passed me on Porter St. Porter is always my Waterloo. That section of the course again turned out to be my weakness and ultimately, the battle with the downhills is where I look back and agree that the “race was lost.” It is always a challenge for me to deal with the downhill part of this, or any course. I just don’t have (or train for) the leg turnover required. I have Peter Lagoy, a trail running friend, to remind me of that fact after finishing yesterday. He said that he marked me on the hill, then basically blew by me on the descent. Oh well. 

That is where Joan gapped me and left me in no-man’s-land. Every so often, someone would pull up on my shoulder, but never surge past. I held my pace, but couldn’t close the gap. I would inch up on her, but she kept a constant 10-20 meter lead. She was pushing very hard. I got a good look at her unique running form; the same form that led her to victories in some of the world’s most famous marathons a quarter century ago. At 51 years old, she was just hammering the MMR course. 

My quest to catch Joanie became a race within a race and I thought I could get her on East Center Street. The crowds were thick and she was getting huge cheers. I pretended that everyone was yelling for me, but it wasn’t enough. At some point, the imaginary elastic band joining us, snapped. As I turned on to Main Street, I knew that I didn’t really have the time or legs to catch her. Good for her-she ended up lowering the women’s 50+ course record by 43 seconds. She won her division and finished 12th overall among women. At 27:28 for her official time, she should own the record for a while. There aren’t too many other women her age, who can run that fast. 

I finished three spots behind her in 98th place. My official time was 27:34. A couple of guys had gotten in between us in the final meters. I saw Joan in the chute after the finish. She had clearly given it her all. I would have expected nothing less. She was winded but happy with her performance. We all had a little lung burn. 

My time was one of my quicker results, possibly even my second fastest. I know that I’ll actually have to train if I ever expect to beat my 27:18 in 1999 and especially train if I ever want to break 27:00 which has been a long time goal. Every year at this time, I say, “I’m going to train next year.” I never do. I would have to put some miles in October and November and work in some track workouts like I did in my high school days (long ago). 

Debbie surprised herself with a 32:15. It wasn’t her fastest MMR result, but her last race, less than two weeks ago was the Javelina Jundred. She is still feeling that 100 miler in her legs. I scanned the results, another tradition, to see the names of all of our friends. In the old days, you had to wait for the The Hartford Courant’s weekend edition when they published a special section with all of the finishers. A move to chip timing several years ago allowed the organizers to produce  much quicker results. This year, the race moved to RFID tags as part of their effort to “green” the race. Compared to the rigid plastic chips, a lot less material is used in the disposable tags that attach to your shoe. I imagine they cost less too. All the better since the proceeds of the race go to charity. 

I was also glad to see that the use of plastic water bottles was minimized. They had them if you needed them, but they made the walk to get them a lot longer. They were also promoting recycling. They had a large bubbler set up too, so you could skip the bottles if you needed a drink. This is all good stuff. As always, the volunteers and race production was superb. It is hard to deal with 10,402 finishers. I’m sure that even more runners and walkers started the race. This is a fabulous turnout! The only glitch I knew of was that the shuttle buses were overloaded an a lot of folks missed the start. This is a bit of a bummer. The police really cracked down on the parking rules, which forced a lot more people to take the buses. Traffic was an issue and many of the buses were snarled in the mess. The race organizers have already acknowledged this and vow to fix it next year. 

The men’s winner was Martin Fagan of Ireland. He ran 21:41 and avenged his one second loss in 2007 when he got pipped at the line. Second was Haron Lagat of Kenya, and third was Brian Olinger of Ohio. The weather was perfect for course records, but Fagan was still 22 seconds off. He said he will come back next year and go for it. I think he was just happy to win this year after going out too hard and then fading, last year.  The women’s winner was Teyba Naser of Bahrain. She ran 25:00 flat and narrowly defeated past winner, Amy Rudolph of Rhode Island, by two seconds. Third was Diane Nukuri of Burundi. 

Fox 61 television had some nice coverage of the race and they have posted a lot of video on their site. The Hartford Courant also has good coverage on their website and in today’s edition of the paper. 

Full results are available from the MMR website. 

Until next year…

1 Response to “2008 Manchester Road Race”

  1. 1 Wayne 28 November 2008 at 10:00 am

    I thought about you guys yesterday, since it was the first MRR I have missed since moving here in 1992. I “lost” my sub-30 slot this year, and decided it was time to move on to another Turkey Day race. Ruthie (my dog) and I did the Goshen Turkey Trot 10k. Ruthie was “second dog” in the race, and if it weren’t for the 3 bathroom breaks she needed as we ran, we would have had the win in the bag. But she didn’t seem to care much about the competition and was only interested in checking out the smells along the course.

    Funny you should comment on the downhill being your “Waterloo”. It was always the same for me. One year in the late 90s when Lynn Jennings was there I found myself comfortably matching her stride for stride on the hill, only to watch her turn those legs over at sub 5-minute mile pace down the hill, and disappear off into the distance.

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