MANCHESTER, CT — Running legend Amby Burfoot is endorsing the hybrid format that will allow the 2020 Manchester Road Race to be staged amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Manchester Road Race Committee announced Thursday that the 84th running of the famed 4.748-mile race will forge ahead on Thanksgiving Day, but with a 500-runner limit and no international field. Initial registration will be for a virtual format with runners for the Thanksgiving Day on-the-course race chosen from each of the MRR's men and women's age group divisions, based on times that the applicants posted at the 2019 or 2018 events.
Under a staggered, "wave" starting system, 20 heats with 25 runners in each heat will start the race at five-minute intervals. The overall order of finish will be determined on the basis of net times.
Burfoot, 74, first competed in Manchester in 1963, when he placed 14th and won the high school division as a senior at Fitch High School. He has run every Thanksgiving morning since then and his string of 57 straight appearances is already the record for most consecutive races. He finished first at the Manchester Road Race a record nine times between 1968 and 1977. Seven of those victories (1971-1977) were in a row. Overall, Burfoot placed among the top 15 runners at the MRR on 18 occasions between 1963 and 1982.
He is an editor emeritus with Runner's World magazine and has authored a number of books about the sport.
Here are his thoughts on the hybrid format:
"I'm thrilled by the 2020 approach that the Manchester Road Race Committee has announced. It accomplishes a number of important goals," he said.
"First, it protects the health and safety of the greater Manchester community and the runners themselves. This is crucial."
"Second, it allows modest-cost virtual registration to an unlimited number of runners who want to continue their 4.748-mile tradition on Thanksgiving Day."
"Third, it allows a manageable number of runners, 500, to actually run the famed Manchester loop on Thanksgiving morning."
Burfoot did get somewhat nostalgic as well.
"Choosing those 500 will prove quite a challenge to the Manchester Committee," he said. "I hope they'll bend a little in the direction of their best customers — the streakers who have run Manchester's roads for 40+ years in a row."
For more on the rules and registration information for the 2020 Manchester Road Race click here.