MANCHESTER—Thanksgiving is a time for reunions, even at the Manchester Road Race.
Bill Rodgers got a chance to get together and reminisce Thursday with his old Wesleyan roommate, Amby Burfoot.
Alistair Cragg got to see old college rivals Simon Bairu and Ian Dobson.
"It's great to be able to carry on with these kind of runs after college," Cragg said. "That's what this race does. It gets us all together."
One difference: Rodgers and Burfoot, former front-runners, were in the middle of the pack at the 70th Manchester Road Race. Cragg, Bairu and Dobson, the young guys, were up front.
Dobson, an All-American from Stanford, held Bairu and Cragg off Thursday morning on the rain-soaked 4.748-mile course to win his first Manchester Road Race in 21:39. Bairu, who led most of the race, finished a second behind, and Cragg, last year's runner-up, was third (21:42).
Shalane Flanagan of Portland, Ore., whose father Steve ran for UConn and finished third in the 1973 Manchester Road Race, won in her first try in 24:30. Last year's runner-up, Mary Cullen of Ireland, was 3 seconds behind, and five-time winner Amy Rudolph of Providence was third (24:43).
There were about 10,000 runners and walkers, despite the downpour that started just as the race began on Main Street at 10 a.m.
"When I woke up this morning, I was bummed out," said Dobson, 24, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. "But the rain doesn't hurt the running at all. It might make the event a little less fun. But I thought it was great."
Bairu, the NCAA cross country champion at the University of Wisconsin in 2004 and 2005, was born in Saudi Arabia to parents who were fleeing war in Africa, but grew up in Canada. He took charge immediately Thursday, taking the lead up the Highland Street hill.
"If I ran with him [up the hill], it would be the end of me," said Cragg, 26, an Arkansas graduate who lives in Fayetteville. "I just had to hang back. He ran a brave race."
Bairu flew down Porter Street alone, with a pack of about 15 trailing. Dobson, Cragg and Kenyan Linus Maiyo broke away at the 3-mile mark and started to chase after Bairu.
"This was my first time," said Dobson, who trains with Olympic marathon medalists Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi in California. "I was told not to do anything crazy up the hill. Simon went hard up the hill. I didn't go with him. We worked on him the rest of the way.
"[At 3 miles] we were realizing we better catch him soon. Then we really started running hard."
Over the next mile, on Center Street, the gap closed.
"I think I underestimated the hill a little bit there," Bairu said. "I started to feel the hill at about the 4-mile mark."
That's when the little pack caught him.
"I panicked and I made a big move to catch up at about 4 miles," Cragg said. "I thought, `All right, if Simon gets to the last turn and sees the finish line, it's going to be hard for us.' I went and caught up to him quickly. And Ian came straight by us both."
Dobson held the lead turning the corner to the finish, followed by Cragg and Bairu. But Bairu - who was impressed with the number of rain-soaked spectators cheering him on - wasn't done.
"I never give up until I cross the finish line," Bairu said. "At that point, it's all adrenaline. I told myself I was going to try and give these people a great performance. It paid off and I was able to regain at least second."
Bairu passed Cragg with about 40 meters left. He couldn't catch Dobson.
"It was his day," Bairu said. "He was awesome."
Flanagan held the lead most of the race. It was her first race since she ran the 5,000 meters at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. She was out for more than a year after having surgery on her left foot.
"I've been waiting to run it for two years now, but I've had an injury," said Flanagan, 24, a 2005 North Carolina graduate. "It never materialized.
"I was looking to be as competitive as I could be. It feels very good. To come away with a win is very exciting."
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