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Manchester Road Race Celebrating 75 Years

Iconic 4.748-mile Thanksgiving Day race set for tomorrow morning.

Iconic 4.748-mile Thanksgiving Day race set for tomorrow morning.

Written by: David Monti
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Sally Kipyego smiles after winning the 2010 Manchester Road Race. Photo: Jane Monti/Race Results Weekly

America’s grandest Thanksgiving Day running event, the Manchester Road Race in Manchester, Conn., celebrates its 75th running tomorrow.  The 4.748 mile run was founded in 1927, and this year organizers closed registration when the event’s participation cap of 15,000 was recently reached.  According to the Association of Road Running Statisticians, the Manchester Road Race is the 12th-oldest road race in the United States, and the third-oldest which consistently invites elite athletes, behind the Boston Marathon and Bay to Breakers 12-K.

Some of distance running’s greatest athletes have won in Manchester, including John J. Kelley (six times beginning in 1951), John Treacy (four times beginning in 1978), Eamonn Coghlan (three times beginning in 1981), Judi St. Hilaire (four times beginning in 1985), Khalid Khannouchi (1996), Lynn Jennings (1994), Deena Kastor (1998, ’99), Amy Rudolph (five times beginning in 1995), and Kim Smith (2004, ’05).  

But no athlete has won the event more times than Runner’s World editor at large Amby Burfoot, who racked up nine victories beginning in 1968. Burfoot, 65, will run Manchester tomorrow for the 49th time.

“Manchester was my first open road race after two years of high-school cross-country,” Burfoot recalled in an e-mail message to Race Results Weekly.  “To me, it represented a step into the world beyond, a world that I always hoped would lead to the marathon.”

The bearded and bespectacled Burfoot won the Boston Marathon in the same year he won Manchester for the first time.  Since then, the race has always been special to him.

“I was entranced, and have been ever since,” he wrote.

Tomorrow’s race features a strong field, led by defending women’s champion Sally Kipyego, the 2011 IAAF World Championships silver medalist at 10,000m.  Kipyego –who has had an excellent fall season with podium finishes at both the Fifth Avenue Mile on Sept. 24 (2nd place) and NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K (3rd)– clocked 24:08 at Manchester last year, not far off of Emilie Mondor’s 23:59 course record from 2003.

“Sally Kipyego is the favorite female and this year will be aware of course record,” commented Dr. David Prindiville, an oral surgeon who organizes the elite field, in an e-mail message.

Other top women entered include Bekelech Bedada (ETH), Megan Armstrong-Peyton (USA), Stephanie Pezzullo (USA), Alemtsehay Misganaw (ETH/the 2009 champion) and Amy Mortimer (USA), Prindiville said.

With last year’s champion Mourad Maaroufit not competing, the race will have a new men’s champion this year.  

“I see this years Manchester Road Race as wide open on the men’s side with Martin Fagan (the 2008 champion), Kevin Chelimo (Kipyego’s husband),and Brian Olinger in the mix,” Prindiville posited.  “Stephen Furst and Andrew Carlson could surprise.”

Prize money goes 10-deep at Manchester with the winners each receiving $4000.

The complete elite athlete entry lists are as follows:

Martin Fagan, IRL
Brian Olinger, USA
Kevin Chelimo, KEN
Andrew Carlson, USA
Stephen Furst, USA
Guor Marial, SUD
Harbert Okuti, UGA
Matt Llano, USA
Kenyon Neuman, USA
Matt Gabrielson, USA
Abdelaziz Atmani, MAR
Samuel Kosgei, UGA
Cameron Bean, USA
Landon Peacock, USA
Cole Atkins, USA

Sally Kipyego, KEN
Alemtsehay Misganaw, ETH
Meghan Armstrong-Peyton, USA
Amy Mortimer, USA
Bekelech Bedada, ETH
Stephanie Reilly, IRL
Megan (Duwell) Herrick, USA
Stephanie Pezzullo, USA
Frances Koons, USA
Ashely Higginson, USA
Cecily Lemmon-Lew, USA
Atalelech Asfaw, USA