Someone once said, the more things change, the more they stay the same. In keeping with that tradition, The Manchester Marathon is still putting forth a spectacular event, but with some changes, or shall I say, improvements.
Four years ago, Race Director Sara Normand decided it was time to put Manchester, New Hampshire on the road racing map. New Hampshire had few Marathons at the time, and no half or full marathon in Manchester. They wanted the Granite State to have a city marathon that would be a true destination. "I couldn't decide whether to do a marathon or a half marathon," said Normand. She did both. And then added a relay. This year, with Normand at the helm and eight others on board (all avid runners), the Manchester City Marathon team will kick off its fourth start to a fantastic day of running on Sunday, November 7, 2010.
The weekend festivities begin at the Kids' Marathon at Fisher Cats Stadium on Thursday, followed by the Sports and Fitness Expo on Friday, November 5, 2:00 – 6:30 and Saturday, November 6, 10:00 – 5:00. The Expo is located at the Radisson Hotel on Elm Street in downtown Manchester and is free for everyone. Here is where runners will pick up their race packets and check out the latest and greatest in running apparel, nutrition and injury prevention. It's a great place to socialize with people who share the same passion – running! The year's guest speaker is still under wraps, but if last year's is any indication of what's to come – Bill Rogers -- it's sure to be someone worth hearing.
The real fun begins on Sunday at 8:50 sharp! The marathon, half marathon, and first leg of the relay will start at the Athlete's Village at Veteran's Park on Elm Street, where the racing excitement will continue throughout the day, featuring live entertainment, a post race massage for all runners, and the annual mouth-watering Soup Cook-Off, where local restaurants take the opportunity to show off their stuff.
Yes, some things will be as before, like the same challenging course with its historical twists and turns along the mill buildings on Commercial Street and through the quiet North End neighborhoods and parks. It will still travel over the river and through the woods for one mile of well-groomed trails around Doris Pond. The notorious hills just after mile five and at mile ten are still there, leading to a generous downhill toward the finish line for the half-marathoners and to a much milder second half for the full. The run through St. Anselm's College offers cheering spectators and a decent down slope on Rundlett Hill Road.
The latest addition to the course offers a beautiful view and a break from the pavement. The pedestrian footbridge brings you back over the Merrimack River, past the New Hampshire Fisher Cats' Stadium and back into downtown Manchester where the finish line awaits you in the Athlete's Village. "You can tell the course was designed by a runner," said returning racer Janine Fellone. "It has just the right amount of hills and lots of volunteers. It's beautiful; it's New Hampshire." And a great qualifier, too! Ranked in the top 30 qualifying races in USA and Canada, the Manchester City Marathon qualified 23% of its runners for Boston in 2009.
Not interested in running a full marathon? Grab a friend or three and enter the marathon relay. Runners in the 4-person teams will run legs ranging in distance from 5 to 8 miles and 2-person teams will each run 13.1 miles – same marathon excitement for half the distance. Runner Joyce Craig successfully covered the distance last year, together with her husband and two friends. "It was a great experience to run it and then meet up with your teammates at the handoffs," said Craig. "It also opens up the opportunity for less serious runners to be part of a bigger race."
So, what's new this year? Well, runners talk and the board of directors listened. "People were asking for more mile markers, more water and Gatorade, and more food," said Normand. In response they added more water stops, 13 in total, fully stocked with water, sports drinks, and energy gels at mile nine and seventeen. Each mile is clearly marked for the runners, with plenty of volunteers ready to assist at a moments notice. "And there will be plenty of food," she said.