MANCHESTER, Conn. — Many may think the Manchester Road Race only happens in Manchester...but what about Kosovo? That’s where a group of Army National Guard members re-created the race and now, they've made it into somewhat of a tradition.
"In 2010, I came here and ran my first one and once you run one to me, you just, you have to be here on Thanksgiving morning," said Cpt. Ben Sullivan with the Army National Guard.
But, in 2015, Sullivan and his friend, SFC (Sgt. First Class) Brian Koehler, were not in Connecticut on Thanksgiving. They were serving overseas in Kosovo. Still, the road race was on their minds.
"Tradition I think would be the main reason. But also the experience, the people, and the crowds and the bands," Koehler said.
They couldn't re-create the bands, but they did re-create the race. All 4.748 miles of it, thousands of miles away on their base in Kosovo.
"Something that we made sure to have when we were over there is it has to be a hill, right? Because from mile one to mile two here, it's kind of the course, right? That's where it makes and breaks people," Sullivan said.
It was nothing like home, but it reminded them of it. Now, other National Guard members are continuing on with the tradition. They hosted another "shadow run" last year.
"We were totally moved when we were contacted," said Rick Dyer, who is on the Manchester Road Race Committee and serves as Coordinator for Veterans' Row.
Dyer has been involved in the race for decades. The same race that was put on hold back in 30s, during the Great Depression. But it was veterans back then, who brought it back to life after World War Two...not too far off from Ben and Brian's idea.
"It's reflective of what happened in 1945 when those veterans who were overseas, missed Manchester, missed the road race and came back and started it. so it's just a continuation of a wonderful history," Dyer said.
A history that'll continue on, whether they're in Manchester, or not.
"The comradery, everybody coming together, them saying 'it's thanksgiving in Manchester,' every year, it's just the place to be,'" Sullivan said.
Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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