Thanksgiving & Race in Manchester
Fall is approaching rapidly. It’s no surprise the cooler mornings and nights signify the seasonal change. The fall is a particularly special time in Manchester due to the highly anticipated Thanksgiving day road race held every year. However, this year will be different as 2020 has brought significant change to everyone’s lives. In one way or another, this town has been affected by the global pandemic, the nationwide outcry for equity amongst all Americans, and the rising unemployment rate. As some may count the days until this year is over, others will continue to embrace and adapt to the change. The Manchester Road Race committee is focused on facing this change head on and embracing it when planning the 84th annual road race.
When looking at the Thanksgiving races of the past, we see a grand celebration of love. A love for running, a love for Manchester, or a love for family is what connects all those who attend. Main Street is flooded with individuals of all ages, shapes and sizes. The energy and atmosphere is truly amazing. Oftentimes, groups will run together at the road race with a common theme of costumes or t-shirts. Given the current political climate, the theme of Black Lives Matter seems an obvious choice for some participants. Perhaps it is something that can still be emphasized in this years’ experience or for the years to come. As of July 2020, Manchester became one of the first towns in the state to officially declare racism a public health crisis. This means that there is a responsibility to take the next steps toward a more equitable society in Manchester.
For nearly three months straight cities have been in uproar over the unnecessary killings of unarmed black individuals by the police. Protesters marching for one cause will then have a new reason to march for by the end of the week, overlapping their work and making an endless cycle of action. Manchester’s very own PowerUp CT is proof of this, as they are a committed and engaged group since its birth. As these moments become harder to swallow, the response of revolutionists becomes even more necessary. Professional athletes are one example of those who have used their platforms to share their views with the world. Leagues like the NBA have been heavily emphasizing their support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Players have been wearing jerseys with the names of those who have lost their lives, answering post-game interview questions with silence, and boycotting their playoff games. Most recently, Jacob Blake, a young Black man and father of four, was confronted by Wisconsin police officers, one of which fired seven shots into his back ultimately paralyzing him. The NBA cancelled all of their games as a response in the following days, causing a stir of mixed emotions from fans.
As sports organizations begin to move into the realm of activism, it calls to attention questions about how athletes will navigate continuing their activism while performing. The Manchester Road Race is no stranger to having professional runners take part in the tradition, but due to COVID-19 safety measures the previously planned 500 participant race has been cancelled. The virtual race experience will be held to simply keep the tradition going and allow lovers of running to have something to look forward to. This is also a perfect opportunity to allow lovers of racial equality to have something to look forward to. Seeing that the road race is one of Manchester’s most developed events, It would be silly to ignore the fact that the town is very capable of having such an event where we show our streets of diversity. Bear in mind the development it takes to create such a change where everyone can live in unison without racial issues. It’s a long process as proven in United States history, but with patience and continuing the momentum created this year there is hope. Being able to show the nationwide effect of racial justice and how it has affected our town is not a bad thing. Something as simple as having moments of silence for those who have lost their lives to racial crimes or advocating for groups who have made a difference in our town are simple gestures that could go a long way.
Every day since the horrific killing of George Floyd, Manchester individuals and members of PowerUp CT have been gathering to rally and spread awareness for racial equity. Knowing that there are residents in Manchester who are listening and responsive to racism is reassuring. The road race committee could benefit from PowerUp CT’s insights and ideas in order to make the road race a place of town wide consciousness and culture. The innovation of the road race committee has already been showcased, as they have been able to create a virtual participation of the race. If the road race committee was able to form an experience that acknowledges our current situations on racial injustice and social distancing, while embracing Manchester’s promise to eradicate racism, it would create another notable moment of 2020.