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November 10. 2012 9:15PM

Andy Schachat On the Run: Manchester happy to help out NYC Marathon entrants


 
It was 5:30 p.m., a week ago Friday, when I heard the New York City Marathon had been canceled. Superstorm Sandy had left New York City unable to accommodate more than 45,000 runners for the big race that had been scheduled for Nov. 4. Within minutes, I was on the phone to Sarah Normand, the race director of the Anthem Manchester City Marathon, also scheduled for Nov. 4.

"Have you heard about New York?" I asked.

"Yes, and I've already gotten some calls," she replied.

So, it came to pass. When the New York City Marathon was canceled, hundreds of runners, all itching to run 26.2 miles, looked north to Manchester and decided to drive, take a train or bus, or find some other way to get to the Queen City. Those folks had planned for weeks to run a marathon, and they were not going to be shut out.

The result was a unique day in the history of New Hampshire road races. The story of the NYC Marathon's cancellation made international news, and the city of Manchester became a part of it.

In its sixth year, the Manchester City Marathon created a buzz and excitement that only could be imagined in the first five years of the race. Even before Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas started the runners (half-marathoners and relay entrants, as well as the marathoners) at 8:50 a.m., race organizers were hearing about runners from all over America - and other parts of the world - who had come to Manchester.

As race day unfolded, more stories kept pouring in. Anyone who was part of the proceedings - I was fortunate enough to be the announcer - knew the 2012 edition of the Anthem Manchester City Marathon was creating stories that would be told and retold for a long time.

The most obvious impact was in the race's numbers, as the influx of last-minute registrants turned this year's edition into the largest MCM ever.

In 2011, there were just under 400 marathon finishers. This year, the number of finishers topped 700. The accompanying half marathon saw an increase of just one runner, from 815 in 2011 to 816 in 2012, evidence that people who switched from New York to Manchester were only interested in the longer distance.

Beyond the numbers were some great individual stories. The marathon winner, Ben Payne of Fort Walton, Fla., arrived in Manchester just as registration was closing. According to one of the timers, Payne was the last to register.

After his victory, Payne explained he was a serviceman who was leaving soon for Afghanistan. Payne admitted it was not easy to switch gears from New York, a race he had planned for months, to Manchester, On the other hand, the $1,500 in prize money, which he never would have won in the Big Apple, came as a pleasant surprise.

Another great story was provided by Adam Chataway, a runner from England. Moments before he finished, his girlfriend informed me he was completing his sixth marathon on six continents in 30 days. Chataway's brother and a friend had driven up from New York with him the day before so they could accompany him on the course and help him complete his task.

But the biggest story was the overall composition of the marathon field.

As part of my race-announcing responsibilities, I called out the names of the runners at the finish line. As the hometowns popped up on my computer screen, it was clear this was not a normal New Hampshire road race. Washington, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Ohio ... these were just some of the states represented. Of course, every time "New York City " or "Brooklyn" appeared on the screen, it was apparent why those runners were in Manchester.

It needs to be said: No one wanted it this way. New York City was in terrible shape, and millions along the coast from southern New Jersey to Connecticut were suffering.

When the Manchester City Marathon was created a few years ago, there was a thought it could be an alternative to New York because the New York City Marathon always sells out. In 2012, for all the wrong reasons, Manchester City did, in fact, become an alternative. The good news was, the displaced runners and the race benefited.

Yes, there was joy in the Queen City over the race's growth, but the real joy came from helping out.

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RUNNING SHORTS: Muliye Lema of Yonkers, N.Y., was the women's winner of the Manchester City Marathon. The half marathon winners were Tadesse Girma of Malden, Mass., and Heidi Westover of Acworth. Westover, New Hampshire's top female distance runner, won the half for the third time in five years ... Looking back to a couple of weeks ago, the winners of the White Mountain Milers Half Marathon were Tim Livingston of Conway and Leslie Beckwith of North Conway ... On Dec. 2, there is a new 5K in Exeter to benefit those affected by Superstorm Sandy. It is the Disaster Relief 5K. For more information go to www.disasterrelief5k.com.

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DON'T MISS OUT: The biggest day of the year in New Hampshire road racing takes place in 11 days. Folks, there is no excuse for staying home and not running or walking in a Thanksgiving Day race. Get out there and earn your bird.

Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at schachat44@gmail.com.

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