In Connecticut there is a Thanksgiving tradition that runners abide by every year that may be almost as important as carving the Turkey. This tradition is the Manchester Road Race of course! Tomorrow will be the 80th running of this historic New England race which follows a 4.748 mile course. The race attracts upwards of 15,000 runner’s ever year and is arguably the 2nd biggest road race in New England to the Boston Marathon.
One man has become very well known for running the Manchester Road Race for a record 53 consecutive years, first completing the race in 1963. This dedicated ‘Manchester Man’ is none other than storied Connecticut running legend, Amby Burfoot.
Burfoot was just a senior at Fitch High School in Groton when he crossed the finish line for the first time at Manchester. He has won the race 9 times and his fastest time on the course is 22:21 from 1972.
In addition to his Manchester Road Race history, Burfoot is also well known for his victory at the Boston Marathon in 1968 when he was just a 21 year old Wesleyan University student. He also owns a personal record in the marathon of 2:14:29.
From the many accomplishments in his storied running career, Burfoot finds the Manchester Road Race streak that he has built up above the rest.
“To me, endurance and enduring are what I strive for in life, not just a brief 15-seconds of fame,” said Burfoot. “So I think my Manchester streak is more meaningful than my Boston victory.”
Burfoot’s streak has definitely not been an easy one as he has had a few times throughout the years where he was close to not even running the race at all.
“One year, in a blizzard, I nearly turned the car around halfway to Manchester because it was getting so dangerous,” said Burfoot. “Instead, we slowed down and arrived later than usual.”
Burfoot has run through things like pneumonia and a nearly ruptured Achilles tendon, in 2013, Burfoot says he struggled the most with a case of a microbiome disease called clostridium difficile.
“My wife and kids practically had to carry me to the start line,” said Burfoot. “From there, my legs and instincts took over.”
Over the years, Burfoot notes that the race has been getting bigger and better in every way. Each year, more and more Olympians, former NCAA champions, record holders and professional caliber runners toe the line.
This year, recent Olympic bronze medalist in the marathon and multiple US record holder, Galen Rupp, will be competing. 2016 Olympic silver medalist from the 5k, Paul Chelimo, will be in the race too. 2014 winner and American 5k road race record holder of 13:22, Ben True, will also add to the competition.
Many professional runners like these come to the race each year, however Burfoot says that the course takes a certain kind of runner to win the race.
“Just as the Tour de France demands two kinds of cycling excellence, time trials and mountain climbs, Manchester demands two types of running excellence: the ability to run uphill’s and downhills,” said Burfoot.
In Burfoot’s competitive running days he says that he may have come up short in races because he failed to match this kind of runner.
“I lost a couple of Manchester’s because I wasn’t a good downhill runner,” said Burfoot. “Then I learned that skill, and started winning. You have to be a “complete runner” to win Manchester, including of course tremendous training and aerobic fitness.”
As Burfoot prepares for his 54th consecutive race tomorrow he won’t be worried about his time, place or even that he is adding to his streak. Running in the Manchester Road Race means so much more for him.
“I know myself more as the guy who kept coming back to Manchester because I loved the holiday and the event so much,” Burfoot said. “At some point, the “streak” took on a life of its own.”
Visit Burfoot’s Website! http://www.ambyburfoot.com/p/home.html