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August 06. 2013 8:16PM

Annual Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K Road Race in Manchester is all about team-building

MANCHESTER — Downtown Manchester takes on the atmosphere of a massive track meet Thursday, when the Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K Road Race holds its 21st run through the downtown and North End.

The event — the third largest 5K road race in New England — draws thousands to the downtown, and police will start closing some streets as early as noon. By 5 p.m., downtown portions of Elm, Amherst and Canal streets will be closed.

The entire route — Elm street from Veterans Park north to Thayer Street back down through Canal Street — closes at 6 p.m. Streets should reopen around 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, organizers are keeping an eye on weather maps. Heavy rain and even thunderstorms are forecast for Thursday, but they are expected to dissipate in the early afternoon, said Susanna Whitcher, spokesman for Elliot Hospital, one of the race organizers.

Whitcher said the event will be held rain or shine, but if thunderstorms or massive downpours are taking place at the 6:20 p.m. start, it will be delayed until safe weather returns.

“People who come to an event like this, even if it were rainy, would have as much fun with this if it were sunny,” she said.

She said the race has always had good weather.

“I don’t know how to explain it, but we always have beautiful weather every year,” she said.

The number of runners is expected to approach 6,000, and the event also draws hundreds of supporters and spectators.

The race features professional runners, some who can kick the 3.1 miles in under 15 minutes. It has three starts, based on the expected speed of individual runners. And it includes high-tech devices such as the ChronoTrack B-Tag, which allows computer scanning and updates of individual runners.

But overall, it is a team event, Whitcher said.

“It’s not an individual vs. individual race,” she said. “It’s a team-building race. It’s about the spirit of the teams.”

She said the Cigna/Elliot race encourages employers to field teams. Teams have a minimum of five members. Teams logos are imprinted on T-shirts, and many teams try to stay together and run as a unit.

“It’s not really you against the clock. It’s your team coming together as a group,” she said.

She said the race raises health awareness in the city.

According to the race website, this is the first year that baby strollers won’t be allowed on the course. The website said it is doing so for safety reasons and notes that bikes, roller blades and skateboards have not been allowed in previous races.

Online registration closed Tuesday, but runners can register for $30 on race day.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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