Manchester Road Race has come a long way from when honorary race chairman Dave Prindiville ran it in 1977

Dave Prindiville described a road race he went to recently with his son, where the son asked the dad to sign him up. Prindiville had to use a QR code to do it; the son’s results were online 10 minutes after the finish.

In contrast, Prindiville, the former Manchester Road Race president and elite athlete coordinator who was honored Thursday as the honorary race chairman, recalled race day in 1977 when he showed up to run at Manchester.

“There was no pre-registration, you showed up that morning and filled out a little application,” he said. “Hand it in with your money, then we had to pay $2 to join TAC, The Athletic Congress, which was to ensure my amateur status.

“Thirteen hundred and fifty people showed up that day. They couldn’t handle it. They had to delay it 20 minutes because of the number of people. When you crossed the finish line, there was one finish line chute. There was a clock about four feet by four feet and it had an hour and a minute hand. Top 25 for prizes – they were very nice gifts from the merchants in town – but if you were 24th or 25th, you got a curling iron or a cookie cutter.”

After that race, which featured grumbling runners backed up down Main Street at the finish, Dick MacKenzie, Eamon Flanagan and Prindiville formed a committee to organize a race that was becoming larger and more popular. When TAC ruled that runners could receive prize money and travel expenses, international runners wanted to run and when John Treacy won in 1978 and broke the course record in 1979, the race started to become a fixture on the running circuit.

During Prindiville’s tenure as president, the race expanded from around 5,000 runners to 12,000 as the race became a Thanksgiving Day tradition with many local runners and their families.

The 86th annual Manchester Road Race will take place Thanksgiving Day at 10 a.m. starting on Main Street. Prindiville, a retired oral surgeon who lives in Brewster, Mass., was a guest at the race’s kickoff lunch at the Manchester Country Club Thursday.

He retired from working with the race in 2015 when he moved from Manchester to Cape Cod.

Prindiville helped get top-level runners and Olympians such as Deena Kastor, Mary Decker Slaney, Shalane Flanagan, Lynn Jennings, Khalid Khannouchi, Mark Carroll and Ben True to run, and it has become known and well-respected nationally and internationally.

“What I didn’t realize is that if you take really good care of elite runners, they tell their buddies, ‘Hey, this is a good race,’ and elite runners’ buddies are elite runners, too,” he said.

Prindiville told of four-time winner Amy Rudolph inviting Deena Drossin, now Deena Kastor, to her house for Thanksgiving and then told her about the race. Kastor came to the race in 1998 and beat Rudolph.

He also talked about how people would call his practice and ask about the road race.

“Four days before Thanksgiving, the receptionist says we have a guy on the phone and he wants to bring an elite runner. I’m like ‘Yeah, yeah.’ Get his name, I’ll talk to him. I’m in surgery. I finish up surgery and she sticks her head back in and says, ‘His name is Alberto Salazar and he’s calling from a phone booth and he wants to bring Mary Decker Slaney to the Manchester Road Race,’” Prindiville said.

“I said to my patient, ‘Can you bite on this gauze for a little while?’ I’ll be right back. That’s how we got Mary Decker Slaney.”

Prindiville doesn’t run anymore; he walks and plays pickleball. He teaches one day a week at Tufts University and does a little fly fishing. He’s looking forward to being on the press truck Thursday on Main Street.

“Dave meant everything to the road race,” said Tris Carta, who succeeded Prindiville as president in 2015. “He was kind of the soul of the road race.”

For more information on the road race, go to 2022 — Manchester Road Race — Race Roster — Registration, Marketing, Fundraising.

Lori Riley can be reached at lriley@courant.com.