2020 Manchester Road Race

This morning, I did my solo virtual Manchester Road Race. It isn’t Thanksgiving yet, and the in-person race is cancelled, but participating in the official virtual edition was fun.

The road race committee has done a good job at keeping Manchester at the top of minds during this pandemic year. This race often caps out at 15,000 runners and on race day, the streets are packed with spectators. Add in the legions of volunteers and you have quite a spectacle during a normal year. With social distancing now part of our lexicon, there was no way that this year’s race would be held in person at 10:00 A.M. on Thanksgiving Day.

Late in the summer, the committee announced a limited staggered start in-person version with a maximum of 500 runners in conjunction with a virtual version, but I don’t think the news lasted a week before that modified concept was scrapped. Instead, the committee went with an all virtual edition.

The race is a massive fundraiser for a variety of local charities, so the financial impact of not having the race is huge. HORST Engineering still sponsored Veteran’s Row for the third year in a row, which makes us proud. I’m certain we will also be back in 2022. If we could make a commitment in a year where our family business has been hammered by the recession in the aerospace industry, then we should be able to make a contribution next year too. I’m hopeful that things will get better, even if the airline and travel industry recovery is slow and doesn’t materialize until 2022 or beyond. We will persevere, just like every MRR runner does.

The app that the committee used for the race is pretty clever. I didn’t spend too much time on it in advance of my planned run, but I got it working last night. I carried my iPhone in a waist belt. Debbie had a few issues trying to load two profiles. She did her official race with Shepard yesterday and then did it again with Dahlia today. Dahlia doesn’t have an iPhone with her own cellular connection, so they had to use Debbie’s phone and that is where the rub was. I guess it took them 30 minutes of troubleshooting prior to the start and they were mildly frustrated, but we aren’t complaining about anything right now. You have to remain positive, especially when running Manchester.

I haven’t really gotten into the virtual thing. This is my first ever official virtual race. The tracking is a key element of the effort. This was my 31st time running Manchester and 26th year in a row, so there was no way I was going to do the virtual race on a course other than the actual course. I live in Connecticut, 10 minutes from the start/finish line, so there was no excuse. The committee is allowing you to do 4.748 miles ANYWHERE, which is great for the fundraising and especially good for anyone out of state who would have to deal with travel, risk, quarantine, and a myriad of different issues in 2020.

The thing I don’t like is the local folks looking to run their fastest 4.748 miles just so their name can appear on some virtual leaderboard as high up as possible. In the end, I’m cool with it because this is all good, and I pay attention to rankings (have you noticed I’m a competitive type?) too.

However, I want an asterisk * next to the name of EVERY runner who did NOT do their 4.748 on the actual course. I want two asterisks ** if you ran on a track and three asterisks *** if you ran point to point downhill on the rail trail! If you live in CT and don’t do the course, that’s lame ATMO. “According To My Opinion” is a great acronym borrowed from my friend Richard Sachs who has executed its use more and better than anyone I know. So, take my ATMO with a grain of salt.

I opted to do my official MRR early this morning. The window to run the race and get an official finish (that will qualify for streaks) using the app is 19 November (Thursday) at 8:00 A.M. through 25 November (Wednesday) at 9:00 P.M. Consult the race website for all the details. The committee consciously decided to close the window BEFORE Thanksgiving because they do NOT want hundreds or thousands of people running the loop on Thursday morning. I’m sure there will be many casual “bandits” out there like every year, but the app won’t work if you want an official result.

I’m counting on a real race in 2021, and doubt they will archive the virtual info on their website, so I’m pasting all the details here and so that they live in perpetuity. As of this moment, 1,880 people have registered for the virtual race. If you are reading this in 2020 and before the 24th, then there is still time. Asterisks aside, if you want to do something fun, be part of a community, and support some great charities, then by all means register, load the app, and walk or run 4.748 miles anywhere. See below.

VIRTUAL REGISTRATION

Please Read Race Information Page before registering

  • Virtual Race Registration opens on October 1 and closes at 9:00pm(EST) on November 24.
  • Registration fee is $20
  • Important Note: Every Virtual participant who plans to use the new MRR app must register with a unique email address.
  • Virtual participation must be completed between 8:00am(EST), November 19 and 9:00pm(EST), November 25.
  • All registered participants are encouraged to use the brand new Virtual MRR app on their smartphones when competing. The app will track each participant’s progress and automatically report their results to the race officials.
  • Those officially registered runners who do not have access to a smart phone, click here for directions
  • Results will be published for everyone who completes their 4.748-mile race during the official time period listed above. Additionally, this year’s race will be added to their longevity streak.

Features of the MRR app

  • The MRR app is a free download.
  • Print a commemorative bib to wear during your Virtual race.
  • Run (or walk) on your favorite local route and compete with your family and friends.
  • Hear audio cues on your progress.
  • The app will automatically stop timing when you reach the “finish line”.
  • Spectators may also download the app and track the progress of their favorite runners.
  • Strava Integration included.
  • Results will be automatically reported to race officials.

Two map views are provided:

  • The actual course being run.
  • The Event Map shows the progress as if the runner is actually running on the Manchester Road Race course.

Important Info about Using the MRR app to Run the Virtual Race

  • The new MRR app is available beginning November 1.
  • To learn how the app works, check out this great intro video.
  • After registering, the MRR app must be downloaded to your smart phone (available on both iOS and Android).
  • Upon completion of the Registration process, new participants will be loaded into the app at 9:00pm(EST) on a daily basis. 
  • You will be notified via an email from RTRT.me that you have been loaded into the app. Be sure to check your Spam file if you do not receive your email within 24 hours of registering for the race.
  • After your registration has been loaded to the MRR app, and you have downloaded the app to your smartphone, you will be able to open the app and “claim your profile”.
  • Your email address uniquely identifies you to the app. (Think of your email address as your timing tag that would normally be attached to your bib.) During the “Claim Profile” process you will receive a verification email to confirm your identity.
  • A smart phone can only record one runner at any given time. If you are a family of runners and don’t own sufficient phones for your entire family, please click here for advice on running the race. 
  • You will be able to complete as many training runs as you desire using the app. Spectators can track your training runs. Results are not transmitted to our timer during your training runs.
  • Within the time frame of the virtual race (November 19–25), you will “activate” the app and run your 4.748 mile race on the course of your choosing.
  • Please read the “MRR Virtual App Instruction” page for complete details on the use of the app and corresponding links and videos.

So, if you are moderately tech savvy, then this whole app thing won’t be an issue for you. Go for it!

I used Saturday to get pumped for my time trial. Even though the weather was better on Saturday, I opted to ride to/from work instead and use the day to “rest” before the hard effort. I got all my stuff ready last night, knowing that I wanted a dawn start. I had to get back in time so that I could join the CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad for a mountain bike ride at Hurd State Park.

I got up around 5:25 A.M., made it to Main Street by 6:15 A.M. and did a two-mile warmup. I was feeling pretty good and when my Garmin Fenix 6s gave me a +4 for a “performance condition value,” I was pleased. The max +20 would have been even better, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a number higher than +7, so I’ll take the +4 and be thankful it didn’t say “minus” anything because that would have been a mental buzzkill. Sometimes, when I feel the vibration on my wrist, I don’t even look! This time I did and I knew I was ready to tackle the course.

It was dark during my warmup, but the sun was rising as I approach the start line. The app gave me a five second countdown after Jim Balcome made his famous saying, “This is Thanksgiving in Manchester!” Debbie had warned me that the app “would talk to me” throughout the run. This was the first indication as his recorded voice made the pronouncement. That was a nice touch. I could do without the 1/2 mile pace updates, but it was hard to ignore them as the sound emitted from the front of my waist belt.

I had a decent first mile and missed the chaos of the start with thousands of folks barreling down Main Street, but this is the first year where seeding made little difference. I literally started on the (faded) start line. That’s never happened before! I opted for a Shenipsit Striders sleeveless shirt, shorts, calf sleeves, gloves, and a Striders trucker hat (worn backwards!) and I was a bit chilled for the first half of my run. I probably should have had sleeves only arms as it was only 34 degrees Fahrenheit when I started. I used my Altra Escalante shoes and they were good. I broke out a brand new pair of Darn Tough socks, which was great. Is there anything better than fresh socks? One cool part of the story is that Debbie bought these for me just two weeks ago using the $50 Fleet Feet gift certificate that I got for placing in my age group during last year’s race. It took us a year to use the certificate but it was worth the wait.

Despite the cold, I held it together over the top of the hill and was able to do an OK downhill on Porter Street. That part of the course is my weak spot, and without other runners to chase or pace off of, I struggled to get my legs turning over, but I remained steady. One good thing about having a slower pace up and over the climb is that I had good legs for the last 1.8 miles which have a slight net downhill. I got motoring and banged out a few sub-5:50 miles so that my overall time of 28:16 turned out to be pretty good for a solo effort. I was pleased. I don’t think I could repeat that in the next four days.

The rules of the virtual race permit you to try as many times as you want, but the app will only log your last attempt, so if you don’t think you can run faster, then you should stick with your previous run. I like that approach. I won’t get too bent out of shape if someone in my age group bests my time on a flatter and faster course, but it irks me that our kids might get beat out by someone who doesn’t run the actual course. Alas, all Livingston’s are competitive. That’s a good thing because we will be certain to run Manchester again next year.

After a quick cool down, I got back home in time to pack the van for our next adventure. It was my first time riding at Hurd. Aside from one wicked fall off of a rocky four foot drop that had me upside down with my bike on top of me, Shepard and I had a blast on the trails. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday morning, and I finally got to do a 2020 ride with my dear friend Arlen Zane Wenzel, which was my highlight for the weekend. Headed towards another pandemic Monday, my only wish is that next year, the MRR is once again run on a Thursday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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