Half-Marathon set to roll

MANCHESTER - This weekend people from far and wide will descend on Manchester to take part in the Maple Leaf Half Marathon and Kotler 5K Run/Walk.

"We've got at least three or four from California; Oregon, Washington. We have a good number from Canada. We have one gentleman coming from Ireland. I think it's probably over 30 states are represented," said Event Director of the Maple Leaf Half Marathon Dave Pardo. "A lot of them use this as a good excuse just to come and see Vermont during the foliage. They've heard about foliage and just being able to blend the trip with a half marathon and a trip around the state at the same time."

Yankee Magazine recognized Manchester as one of the top foliage viewing sites in the northeast, which was publicity that Pardo said was invaluable in attracting people to the region in the early fall.

Executive Director of the Manchester and the Mountains Regional Chamber of Commerce Berta Maginniss agreed that the recognition from Yankee Magazine may have helped the race to some degree.

"I think Yankee Magazine is one of those publications that people rely on for [a] New England best of so I think that's been very helpful, but I think more than that it's a race that people find fun to run," she said. "They like the smallness of our town. They feel very welcome here."

Maginniss also said she believed word of mouth and social media has helped spread and contribute to the popularity of the race.

By coming in early September as opposed to the middle or end of the month, Pardo said people are able to avoid the crowds of people that usually descend on the area when foliage is generally considered to be at its peak.

The foliage as well as picturesque nature of the event is what Pardo said he believes is the attraction to many of the approximately 1,000 runners that will compete.

"They like the views. Most of the course is out in the country," said Pardo. "They love the vistas they see with the mountains and then the hay bails being rolled up. That's a real treat for a lot of these people. Many of them come from Boston and New York too so the countryside is a real treat for them."

The half marathon course begins at the Manchester Parks and Recreation Department and travels down Route 30, up West Road where it connects with Route 30. Runners will then travel down Route 30, up Aeolus Lane onto North Road then up Wind Hill Road before going down Overlook Road, North Road and Route 7A before turning back onto Route 30 and finishing at the Manchester Parks and Recreation Department.

The 5K begins at the Manchester Recreation Department, travels down Route 30 and turns onto School Street before traveling up Route 7A to Riley Rink at Hunter Park. Runners then travel down Wooded Path to the finish line at the Manchester Parks and Recreation Department.

While the scenery is one attraction for the runners who participate in the race, Pardo said that it was not the only draw.

"They praise the Manchester population for being very welcoming, you know greeting them in a friendly manner so that's a big part of it too," he said. "We limit it to 1,000 because it's a small town and we don't want to overwhelm the roads. We like the small town atmosphere. We like the small race atmosphere. the runners appreciate that too. They realize that they're part of a real unique experience with the small town race, small town atmosphere, [and] beautiful countryside."

Of the approximately 1,000 participants in the half marathon and 5K, Pardo said about 55 percent of them are from out of state - something that significantly helps the local economy.

"With 55 percent of the people, in other words at least 550 families, coming from out of state, they're staying in the motels, they're having breakfast, lunch and we hope dinner over one or two days in the restaurants. We see them shopping in the stores," he said. "It provides a real boost for that weekend So, it's a weekend that typically tourism in the area has been subdued and it helps to perk things up a little bit in what would otherwise be a dead time."

Maginniss shared similar sentiments.

"I think it's always valuable, but this particular time of year we're on the shoulder season of summer and actual foliage," Maginniss said. "By the third week of September people are traveling here principally for foliage and they were traveling here until the end of August when they started thinking about going back to school or work. It is a good time of year to have an event that will draw people to the area."

As for the revenue that is generated by the race itself, Pardo said it gets divided among various non-profits.

"There are between 20 and 25 non-profits that benefit directly and then there are many other non-profit organization that benefit through Lions [Club} Charities," Pardo said. "Nothing leaves the town. All the revenues that are netted go toward charitable work and non-profit work in the Northshire area."

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