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For Burfoot, this year will be a sweet 60 at Manchester Road Race

The nine-time Manchester Road Race champion is set to run the race for a record 60th time, all in a row.

MANCHESTER, Conn. — Groton native Amby Burfoot has had a world-class running career, even winning the Boston Marathon in 1968.

Here in Connecticut though, Burfoot’s name is synonymous with the Manchester Road Race because he’s been the most dominant runner the race has ever seen. And if he can complete the 4.748-mile run once again this Thanksgiving, he will become the most prolific runner of the race as well.

Burfoot has kept a lot of running mementos throughout the years, including a white-brimmed painter’s hat with a green Manchester Road Race logo on it. Across the sides and on part of the brim, a series of numbers starting at 51 has been written on the hat in Sharpie, with each one eventually being checked off.

“This is the Road Race hat that the committee gave me in 2013 for my 51st Manchester,” Burfoot explained while showing the hat. “Ever since then, I’ve kept it and I keep crossing it off. Last year was 59.”

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This year, he’ll add the number 60 to that hat, to commemorate his 60th running of the Manchester Road Race. He is set to become the first person to reach that milestone, and on top of that, it will be his 60th running in a row.

“It isn’t the number itself, it’s the fact that I have an active streak,” Burfoot said.

At 76 years old, Burfoot said he actively is working to keep the streak going as long as possible. It’s his competitive outlet.

“The fact that I keep coming back, I think, says something about determination and consistency and endurance,” Burfoot said.

Burfoot used those traits to win this race a record nine times, a remarkable legacy. This year’s race will be the 86th edition – closing in on a century of racing – and of those races, he’s won approximately 10% of all the Manchester Road Races ever won, and he’s competed in just under 70% of them. 

“There’s nothing to match Manchester on Thanksgiving Day morning,” Burfoot said.  

Burfoot said his first Manchester Road Race, in 1963, was his first road race of any kind. He was a student at Fitch High School. The morning of his first Manchester appearance, he hitched a ride with his coach, John J. Kelley, who had won the race several times.

“In the early years, when I was young and in college, and just after, I came to Manchester to try to win,” Burfoot said.

Winning wouldn’t be easy. Burfoot said, even back then, Manchester was a prestigious race.

“In New England, back then, there was only [The] Boston [Marathon] and Manchester.”

Five years later, in 1968, he won for the first time and then won eight more times, including seven in a row, through 1977.

“The fact that I won as many times as I did was kind of a miracle,” Burfoot said, “I won some of those races against guys who were faster than I was just because Manchester excites me so much that I run out of my head.”

Now, the focus is no longer on running out of his head, or even running to hit a specific time. The goal now, Burfoot said, is simply to keep running – to keep the streak going, which isn’t always easy. 

“You need to have that determination, that grit, a little bit of toughness,” Burfoot said, “It’s not heart and legs like a lot of people think, it’s all right here in between the ears.”

After all, there’s still plenty more room on his hat.

“I will keep coming back to Manchester to run this road race as long as I can healthfully do it,” Burfoot said.  

Tim Lammers is an anchor at FOX61 News. He can be reached at Tlammers@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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