Manchester City Marathon and Half Marathon Blends the Past with the Future
Sunday, November 2, 2008, marks the 2nd Annual Manchester City Marathon and Half Marathon in Manchester, N.H. The challenging and scenic course has all the right elements to place it high on the "to do list" with other long-distance New England races.
Posted Monday, 14 April, 2008
Beginning and ending in the Queen City’s downtown, this USATF-certified course is a 2009 BAA Boston qualifier that leads runners past historic mill buildings as well as through the vibrant and flourishing downtown. Experience this city’s rich past and come make history by running the Manchester City Marathon and Half Marathon in 2008!
If you missed last year’s event, mark your calendars for this year. The Manchester City Marathon race committee has been hard at work planning a fantastic race weekend for the entire family. The MCM Health and Sports Expo will be held at the Radisson Hotel on Elm Street on Friday, October 31, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, November 1, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Exhibitors will be on hand touting information, products and demos with health, nutrition, fitness and running in mind. Runners must visit the Expo to pick up their packets, which include a long-sleeve, wicking Manchester City Marathon shirt. Ladies – the race committee kept you in mind this year, and is offering women-specific shirts – for a great fit! The Expo will also be the time to meet face-to-face with this year’s celebrity runner. Last year, Olympic Marathon Gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson spent time meeting runners and signing autographs.
Additions to this year’s race include stricter and more extensive traffic control and on-course entertainment for runners. The race committee has also expanded the field to 2,000 runners this year. In 2007, directors capped registration at 1,700, and the race completely sold out. Online registration is now open at www.manchestercitymarathon.com.
Racers in both the full and Half Marathon will vie for overall and age group prizes. Cash prizes will be awarded in both races, both for indivisulas and for USATF recognized teams. Cash awards run five deep in the Marathon open division, and three deep for the Half. Three masters winners in each race as well as winning teams will also be rewarded. (Please visit the Race Website for further information on all casha dn age group prizes.) All racers will be chip-timed by Yankee Timing to ensure accurate finish times, and quick results postings. Additionally, all finishers will receive a commemorative Manchester City Marathon medal sporting the race logo.
A Glimpse at the Future
November 1, 2008, festivities also include the 2nd Annual MCM Kids Marathon at 10:00 a.m. in the MerchantsAuto.com Stadium, home of the Manchester Fisher Cats baseball team. This unique and free event brings children from Manchester schools as well as surrounding towns and cities together to run the last mile (four laps around the ball field) in their marathon run. Throughout the course of the school year, the kids will log 25 miles – in school and at home – working toward that home-stretch final mile at the stadium to complete the full marathon distance. In 2007, nearly 400 kids throughout the Greater Manchester area took on and completed this challenge. Each child will receive a commemorative Finisher’s keepsake, which, this year, aims to encourage continuing an active lifestyle.
Visit the “Kids Marathon” menu of the MCM Website to download a mileage log and application. Registration for the Kids Marathon is open to children in Grades 1-8; day-of registration will also be open prior to the race. Come and watch these kids run – you might just catch a glimpse of a future Olympian!
The Course – Its Ups and Downs
Both events in the Manchester City Marathon – the Half Marathon and the 26.2 miler – begin near Veteran's Park on Elm Street in the Athlete’s Village, where runners can be seen stretching, hydrating and mentally preparing for what’s ahead. “I enjoyed the collective energy of both the runners and spectators just before the start of the race,” notes Jeff Silver, 47, of Hooksett, N.H., who ran in the inaugural marathon. “It was nice having the Mayor and an Olympian there too.” The starting gun for both races goes off at 8:50 a.m., with WMUR-TV broadcasting live from the event.
After leaving Elm Street on Granite Street, runners will head north on Commercial Street to enjoy a view of the revitalized waterfront mill buildings that used to house textile factories, but now offer space to several firms working at the cutting edge of technology. The first few miles of any marathon or half-marathon often are all about shaking off the jitters and trying to focus. On Commercial Street, let your mind stray with the thought that the pavement that you’re pounding was not too long ago a water-filled canal used to power mill machinery. Technically, it still is. According to the Manchester Historic Association, the canal still remains under the road, which has only been in place since the 1960s.
Moving away from the mills, runners begin the slight climb through the city’s North End – past rows of historic homes, parks and cheering crowds – before enjoying a steady descent down Union Street. The crowd support certainly doesn’t end there! In 2007, family and friends with signs and noisemakers, as well as locals just looking to offer runners words of encouragement, lined both sides of the streets throughout most of the race. Don’t get too comfortable on the downhill, though, because the course turns onto Webster Street, where those cheering crowds can help push you along as the elevation begins to shift. At mile 6.5, all racers come face-to-face with the biggest hill of the course – and head up Webster Street for a slight turn onto Smyth Road to finish the upward momentum.
The best advice is to buckle down, enjoy the scenery and take in the cheers from the crowd. This hill doesn’t go on forever – it’s only about ½ mile long with a total elevation gain of just 400’. “The hill was hard, but there were so many people cheering for you that it made it easier to keep going,” says Kristin Mara, 39, from Pembroke, N.H., who ran a personal best in the 2007 Half Marathon. “I have never done a Half Marathon with crowd support like this one -- it was amazing. Everywhere you ran, people were cheering you on!” Silver adds that even though this course was more challenging than other marathons he’s competed in, it offered better scenery. “I’m from Manchester, so some nostalgia is involved as well.”
The next few miles take runners down shady and tree-lined Reservoir Ave., and then a short and steep climb up Bridge Street. The road flattens out for a bit as it passes the Derryfield Country Club golf course and snakes through residential streets for more cheers and support. After making a left turn onto Hanover Street, runners hit a quick hill before the steep, steady downhill back to Elm Street. If you’re running the Half Marathon, now’s the time to check your watch and kick it in for a strong finish and PR. Beware, though, if you’re running the full marathon – you don’t want to get caught up in the enthusiasm and pace of others around you. You still have a lot more of the city to cover!
The West Side
Those running the Half Marathon take a left onto Elm Street for a final dash to the finish line. “Coming through the finish line was my favorite part of this race,” says Mara. “I really enjoyed getting through the transition area at the end. Getting water and post-race food was easy – it wasn’t a battle at all.” Racers in the full marathon take a right onto Elm Street toward Bridge Street, crossing over the powerful Merrimack River and heading to the city’s West Side. The terrain of the second half of the course is considerably flatter than the first half; however, there are still a few rolling hills in there to keep things interesting.
While on the West Side, the course crosses into Goffstown – making its way through the campus of St. Anselm’s College. Runners will feel rejuvenated by the rowdy, supportive crowds on campus, while allowing their minds wander once again to the history of this campus. During presidential election years, St. Anselm’s College is the site of many televised political debates. This campus has marked the starting line for numerous presidential hopefuls, but at Mile 18 of the Manchester City Marathon, racers are nearing their final leg! A short trip through the town of Bedford leads runners to the 20-mile mark, back to the West Side and back over the Granite Street Bridge. The final 5K includes a nice flat neighborhood run through Manchester’s downtown residential area, onto Hanover Street and back onto Elm Street for that final push the finish line! After crossing the finish line, runners can again meet up to talk about their races, PRs and plans for next year while grabbing a bite to eat from the catered buffet in the Athlete’s Village. Afterward, be sure to relax in the Village, enjoy the live music and line up for a post-race massage.
Don’t let any mention of a few hills scare you about this terrific race. It is New Hampshire – there are hills all around for training runs. With proper training and a little persistence, a BQ is definitely attainable. “We had quite a few people who did qualify for Boston at this race in 2007, despite the hills” says Sarah Normand, Race Director. “When people are well trained, it’s possible. A marathon is tough anyway. Honestly, once you get past that Smyth Rd. hill, the course is much smoother sailing.”
Building for the Future
The Manchester City Marathon and Half Marathon not only bring a fantastic event to a vibrant and growing city, but proceeds from the race also benefit two well-deserving charities: Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester and the National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In 2007, these events raised an outstanding $15,000 for these charities. Find information the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester at http://www.mhcgm.org; the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation can be found online at http://www.cff.org.
Foliage, History and Something for the Whole Family
This November, the Manchester City Marathon and Half Marathon race weekend offers events for the whole family -- the Half Marathon, full Marathon and Kids Marathon. With many great local hotels, restaurants, museums in Manchester, the road racing and industrial history of this city, as well as the nearby White Mountains rich in beautiful fall colors, I couldn’t think of a better time or place for a family weekend of racing! I hope to see you there!