MANCHESTER — Standing just inside the entrance to J.W. Hill’s Sports Bar and Grille and looking at the finish line he soon hoped to cross, Larry Givens could not have been happier.
“What other race can you grab a beer before you start, then finish right back here again?” Givens said Thursday night. “I love this race.”
Givens and more than 6,500 pre-registered runners descended upon the Queen City to take part in the 22nd annual CIGNA/Elliot Corporate 5K Road Race, raising thousands for New Hampshire charities — and bringing thousands of participants and spectators to the city’s downtown restaurants and pubs.
“The city is alive tonight,” Mayor Ted Gatsas said, as he prepared to fire the starter pistol for the race. “It’s amazing the level of excitement this brings to our downtown area. We couldn’t ask for better weather tonight.
“ Look at the people sitting and eating along Elm Street, watching the runners line up,” Gatsas said. “The race just continues to grow every year.”
In its 22nd year, the race is the largest road race in New Hampshire, and one of the largest 5K road races in New England. Over 260 corporate teams registered for the race.
Jamie Vincent of Manchester headed for the finish line before the race even started, looking to take a “selfie” with the large banner.
“This is my favorite race of the year,” said Vincent. “Couldn’t ask for a better night. It’s got a real community feel to it.”
Standing outside the Portland Pie Company, Maria Bowe of Litchfield had staked out a spot on the sidewalk.
“My brother’s running, so I want to make sure I see him cross,” Bowe said. “This is something he’s been working toward since the spring, and we’re very proud of him.”
Savannah McPhee of Goffstown found inspiration in the crowd of runners passing by Castro’s Back Room on Elm Street, as the race got underway.
“Look, it’s Mr. Incredible,” said McPhee, pointing to a runner dressed to look like the movie character. “I am so impressed with every one of them. I want to be out there with them next year. I need to be a part of this.”