Marc LaFreniere of Manchester pushed harder than most to cross the finish line of Thursday’s 20th annual Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K Road Race.
For LaFreniere, “pushed” isn’t a colloquial term for working hard or giving extra effort. After having his right foot amputated two months ago, LaFreniere completed the race in a non-motorized wheelchair. In under an hour. And ahead of hundreds of able-bodied walkers and runners.
“I feel great!” the U.S. Air Force veteran shouted as he wheeled across the line. “That was so great.”
The amputation was the culmination of 25 years of suffering related to a foot he fractured while rappelling from a helicopter during his Air Force service, he said.
His wife, Leanne, said she expected her husband to feel sorry for himself, even if for just a day or two.
“It never happened,” she said. “I was scared for him the whole time. But I love his attitude. Together, we can conquer it all.”
“It’s no big deal. It’s just a foot,” said his daughter, Kaitlin.
He said Thursday’s finish of 57 minutes — he wanted to complete the 5K race in less than an hour — was the first of many goals he’s set for himself since his foot was removed. His next goals are to walk the 2013 race after being fitted with a prosthesis. In 2014, he plans to run, he said.
“I said to myself that this will not hold me back,” he said. “It’s not going to stop me. Nothing will.”
LaFreniere was one of more than 6,000 people to enter Thursday’s race. Local businesses were swarmed with customers, before and after the race.
“I love race day,” said Kathy Standish, owner of J.W. Hill’s Sports Bar and Grille, shortly before the race began at 6:20 p.m. The restaurant is next to the finish line at the corner of Elm and Merrimack streets. “Come seven o’clock, we’re going to be packed.”
Enjoying a couple of pre-race beers at J.W. Hill’s were Angela Toppazzini and Elizabeth Guthrie, who are both from Hooksett. Both said they planned to walk, not run, the race after their adult beverages.
There were some minor inconveniences, too. Traffic on Granite Street, which fed motorists to downtown from Interstate 293, was backed up to the interstate.
At Veterans Park, Jesse Tramposh and Elizabeth White of Bedford were “finally” able to use one of dozens of portable toilets after waiting for more than 10 minutes.
“Not very quickly,” was how Tramposh described the line’s progress. “We’ve been waiting for a while.”
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Tim Buckland may be reached at email@example.com.