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December 07. 2013 10:53PM

Santa Shuffle, parade draw crowds to Manchester


12/07/13 Ryan Burgess, Kelly Hopkins, and Allyson Burgess, from Manchester, pose for a photo, during the annual Kids Elf Run, on Elm Street, on Saturday, in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER - Ashley Grondin and Melissa Murray each considered themselves big winners during Saturday's Santa Shuffle 3-mile road race, though for starkly different reasons.

Grondin, of Manchester, said the race was the start of her family's efforts to be healthier and get in shape. And she was all smiles as she was the last person to cross the finish line, which Millennium Racing workers were dismantling to make way for the Spirit of Christmas Parade, which started shortly after the race was finished.

"I don't care if I came in last," Grondin said. "I didn't quit. That's what matters."

For her part, Murray was the first woman to streak across the finish line, winning the race for the second time in its three years of being featured as part of Manchester's downtown Christmas festivities.

"It was a really great race," the 18-year-old from Newfields said. In 2011, she won the inaugural Santa Shuffle, and she came in second last year. She said her official time of 19 minutes and 19 seconds was "a good time for me."

Keith Thurp, director of marketing for Millennium Racing, said runners are encouraged to compete dressed in holiday garb. About 2,000 people participated in the race, according to results posted on the organization's website.

"We prefer everybody dress as a Santa Claus or some kind of festive attire," he said.

Nacho Hernando of Concord won the men's division, with race announcers saying he'd also won another race earlier Saturday in Laconia. Manchester's Richie Spitsberg came in second and Mike Veilleux of Weare was third. Following Murray in the women's open division was Stephanie Burnham of Goffstown and Mary Klene of Manchester.

Following the race, people lined both sides of Elm Street to watch the parade, including Jennifer Ramsey of New Boston and her sons, 3-year-old Nolan and 16-month-old C.J.

Asked whether he was hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa, Nolan, bundled up against the cold, shook his head."He wants to see the horns and the band," Ramsey said. "We're just hoping we can make it to the end and don't get too cold."

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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