IN A FEW days, thousands will gather in Manchester for the Cigna/Elliot 5K, which is taking place on Aug. 14. Not only is Cigna/Elliot the state's largest race (when using timed finishers as the measuring stick) it is also the fastest (using USA Track and Field standards). That means it is time for me to ask my annual pre-Cigna question: Will we see a state record at the race?
In order for a performance to qualify for a New Hampshire state record two requirements must be met. The race can not be considered "too fast" by USATF standards, meaning the total elevation drop from start to finish must be within certain limits. Second, certain procedures must be used by the timing company, procedures also set by USATF.
The fastest 5K ever run at a New Hampshire road race was in 2007 when Nate Jenkins of North Andover, Mass., ran 13 minutes, 46 seconds at the Hollis Fast 5K in Hollis. As the name of the race suggests, the course was fast, a downhill point to point course. The elevation drop from start to finish on this course is outside USATF standard so Jenkins performance seven years ago is not recognized as a New Hampshire state record. The same goes for Tim Ritchie's 13:47 at the 2013 Hollis Fast 5K.The Cigna/Elliot 5K does meet USATF standards for a record eligible course. With the start on Elm Street and the finish a few blocks away on Merrimack Street, there is very little elevation drop from the start and finish at this Manchester event. That is why the Cigna/Elliot race is where my personal state record spotlight points to every year.
This will be the 22nd Cigna/Elliot 5K and it has traditionally drawn the state's fastest field year after year. The only exception was the 2013 Hollis Fast 5K which was the New England 5K championship that year. Every other year Cigna/Elliot has clearly outmatched other New Hampshire 5Ks as the fastest.
Some years the field has been fast enough to create New Hampshire road race history. Only twice on USATF record eligible courses has a runner broken the 14 minute barrier at a New Hampshire 5K and both times were at the Cigna/Elliot race. The first time was in 2003 when Joseph Mwai of New York City ran 13:55, the first sub-14 minute 5K in New Hampshire even when including "too fast" courses. Six years later, in 2009, another New Yorker, Alene Reta, ran 13:53 and established the current state USATF record.
In addition to the overall state record the state record for New Hampshire runners was also set at Cigna/Elliot when Londonderry's John Mortimer ran 14:21.
In addition to what Mwai, Reta and Mortimer, have down at the Cigna/Elliot race the numbers are extremely impressive. Nine of the previous 21 winners have finished under 14:10 and only four times the winner has been slower than 14:30.
How does that compare that to other New Hampshire races? Outside of the Hollis Fast 5K, and its fast course, you could probably count on your fingers the amount of New Hampshire 5Ks that have had a winning time under 15:00. That's all New Hampshire 5Ks in the past 22 years. OK, maybe add in your toes.
When the race began as the Healthsource 5K in the early 1990s, race organizers offered a generous prize package for wins, fast performances, and course records. That drew the attention of some runners from outside New Hampshire, specifically from New York. Year after year, those runners have traveled to Manchester, usually by bus, and have attacked the course with a vengeance. It has resulted in the lightning fast times.
On the women's side, the field has also been fast though not has historic as what the men have done.
The New Hampshire state 5K record is held by Lynn Jennings, the Olympian who used to live in Newmarket. Jennings ran 15:28 at the Bud Light Couples 5K in Concord in 1993. The Cigna/Elliot women's record is 15:39, set by Marie Davenport of Providence, R.I., in 2004. Having come so close to Jenning's record the hope was that Davenport would return and run faster but she has never been back so her Cigna/Elliot run stands as the second fastest 5K ever run by a woman at a New Hampshire 5K. Traditionally the women's winning time at Cigna/Elliot is in the 16-17 minute range. Like the men, many years the winner has come from New York.
When discussing whether a state record will be set in Manchester in a few days, a tip of the hat must be given to the timers, Granite State Race Services. As stated above, certain USATF procedures must be met by the timers for a USATF record and GSRS meets those standards. There have been occasions in the past when runners thought they had established a state record only to learn that the timers of that race had not used USATF procedures. That doesn't happen at Cigna/Elliot.
So, here I go, once again. As the countdown to the Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K Road Race continues, and the time for race day draws closer, I will anxiously await the moment the first runners approach the finish line and see if New Hampshire road race history is created.
Running shorts: New Hampshire triathletes have taken center stage recently. Concord's Amber Ferreira won the Ironman Lake Placid race in New York, one of the premier triathlons in the country. Intervale's Megan Skidmore was the first finisher overall at the Greenfield Lightlife International Distance Triathlon in Massachusetts, a rarity when a woman is first overall at triathlon. Hampton's Bruce Butterworth won the Marshmallow Man Triathlon in Laconia.
At age 61, Butterworth may be the oldest to ever win a New Hampshire road race or triathlon. ... Looking ahead, one of New Hampshire's oldest races, the 35th Run For the Honey takes place in Hancock on Aug. 16.
Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.