MANCHESTER — When Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas fires the starter’s pistol on the corner of Elm and Amherst streets at 6:20 p.m. this evening, Cigna/Elliot Corporate race director Susanna Fier said she and many others will feel the energy once again at the starting line.
“It’s just overwhelming with excitement from start to finish,” said Fier. “For me personally it’s a thrill and this race just never gets old for me.”
Fier said Wednesday she’s expecting a record number of registered runners to compete in tonight’s 22nd annual 5-kilometer (3.1-mile race).
“As of Wednesday we already had 6,200 people who registered for the race,” said Fier. “Every year on race day, we get another 500 runners who register. I’m expecting anywhere between 6,600 to 6,700 registered runners which would be a new record for the largest road race in New Hampshire.” The Cigna race set a record last year with 5,475 finishers.
Fier said runners can register for the race today from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Veterans Park near the stage. The fee is $28 per person and the event is also open to wheelchair entrants.
“Health, wellness and fitness are top priorities for many people today,” said Fier. “This race is for people of all ages. Whether you’re running with friends and family, for a corporate team or yourself, it’s a fun event. Even if you don’t run, I encourage people to come downtown just to watch the race. It’s not going to rain and the temperature is going to be comfortable around 77 degrees.”
Gatsas said between the Cigna race and the fact the Fisher Cats are playing a doubleheader at home today against Richmond at 6:05 p.m., nearly 16,000 people will be downtown around 5:30 p.m. today.
“People need to arrive early because we’re closing many streets in and around Elm Street,” said Gatsas.
“Overall this is great for our city, great for our businesses downtown,” said Gatsas. “I’m fortunate enough to start the race and it’s just an amazing event to watch over 6,000 runners jog through the streets of Manchester.”
Last year the overall winner was 25-year-old Aschalew Meketa (14:02) of New York City. The overall female winner was 26-year-old Tufa Tigist (15:47) of Bronx, N.Y. As of Wednesday, Fier said neither runner has registered for today’s race.
“Usually the elite runners don’t register until the day of the race,” said Fier. “So we won’t know for sure which elite runner will be here until race time.”
Fier did confirm that 27-year-old Brian Harvey of Boston, Mass., who placed fourth overall last year, will be the field.
Last summer eight New Hampshire runners posted a top-20 finish. They were Nick Karwoski (14:48, eighth place) of Hollis, Alex McGrath (14:54, 10th) of Marlborough, Dylan Lafond (15:12, 11th) of Manchester, Justin Freeman (15:14, 12th) of New Hampton, Samuel Gagnon of Hooksett (15:22, 14th), Wes Dinnan (15:37, 16th) of Bedford, Tyler Dinnan (15:38, 17th) of Bedford and Gisore Antoine (15:47, 19th) of Rindge.
The top New Hampshire female finisher last year was Heidi Westover (16:38, 41st) of Walpole.
Westover ran in the Olympic marathon trials in 2008 and 2012 and Freeman, who has registered for today’s race, was the top New Hampshire finisher in the 2011 Cigna race. Twin brothers Wes and Tyler Dinnan of Bedford are former University of New Hampshire runners.
Last summer 10 runners finished the race under 15 minutes. In 2009, the Cigna/Elliot field included Ethiopia’s Alene Reta, who ran one of only two sub-14-minute 5Ks in New Hampshire history. He still holds the men’s Cigna course record of 13:52.65 set that year.
Marie Davenport of Goffstown is still the women’s Cigna record holder, setting her 15:38.41 time in 2004.
The first place winners today will receive $600 and, if they break the course record, they will receive an additional $1,000. A bonus of $500 will be awarded to any non-winning individual who tops the current course records.
Prize money is offered to both genders who finish second ($500), third ($400), fourth ($300) and fifth ($200).
The top male and female Masters (40 and over) winners will receive $400 and the top Granite State runners for both genders will receive $100.
A total of 257 corporate teams, as of Wednesday, have already registered for today’s race.
The course from the starting line continues down Elm Street before winding left on Thayer Street, five blocks north of Webster St. The course continues on River Road (off Thayer) and heads south onto Canal St. The last turn onto West Merrimack St. becomes the final leg toward the finish line at the corner of Elm and Merrimack near Veterans Park.
Parking will be available at five lots (Pearl Street, Hartnett, Arms, Middle Street, Pine Street), three parking garages (Center of New Hampshire, Canal Street, Victory) and three leased lots (Bedford, Arms, Granite Street).
Roads will be closed in downtown Manchester. Beginning at noon, Merrimack Street from Elm Street to Chestnut St. will be closed and at 3 p.m., Amherst Street at Elm Street will be closed. At 4:30 p.m. Elm St. between Mechanic and Hanover Streets will be closed.
At 5 p.m., Elm Street between Lake Ave. and Bridge Street will be closed along with Canal Street northbound from Granite Street to Thayer Street. Finally the entire race course will close from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
More information about the race may be found at www.elliothospital.org.