Manchester’s Steve Gates competes in road race for 52nd time | Manchester Road Race

MANCHESTER – Steve Gates’ first trip to the 4.748 mile Manchester Road Race was in 1969 when he was in high school.

Gates’ 52nd trip to Manchester took place on Thursday. He is one of the few runners to have taken part in the event more than 50 times.

“I’m grateful that I can still come to the start line and go around the course,” said Gates. “But what really stands out about the race for me are the hundreds of volunteers who take part of their thanksgiving to put on such a well-organized event. There are volunteers that I see on the starting line that I have seen for decades. I think it’s amazing to be able to say hello to the same people for over 30 years.

Gates, who grew up in Manchester and still lives in the city, played basketball, baseball and football growing up. He only started running competitively in his sophomore year at Manchester High, when he was encouraged to return to the sport after suffering a knee sprain which prevented him from playing football.

“I was told that it might be helpful to go out on an indoor track to get back into shape and rehabilitate after the injury,” said Gates. “The results were not favorable at first, but by the spring track they convinced me to go out for the spring track. The older guys and the coaches I interacted with had such a passion and love for what they were doing that it made me addicted to running.

He took up running with great zeal, joining Manchester’s indoor and outdoor track and cross-country teams.

Gates continued his running career at Eastern Connecticut State University, where he won the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship in 1974 and set a career-high 4:09 mile at the National Championships. the NCAA the same year.

He continued to participate in road races after graduating from the East, participating in one or two events per month while working as a business consultant at Aetna Insurance.

In 1979, shortly after his 26th birthday, Gates left his post at Aetna and moved to Florida, where he joined a running club and attempted to qualify for the 5,000-meter Olympic trials. .

“I knew I was a pretty good runner, but I didn’t know how good I could be,” said Gates. “So I moved to Florida and joined a track club and ran full time to test myself. The goal was to qualify for the Olympic 5,000-meter trials. I didn’t, I didn’t meet the qualifying criteria, but I left my visit feeling like I had really discovered what I was capable of.

He returned to Connecticut in 1980 and began training for that year’s Manchester Road Race with Barrie Almond, a former Olympian who worked alongside him at Aetna.

Almond’s tutelage paid off, as Gates finished seventh overall in the 1980 road race with a time of 22:59, which remains the course record for a Manchester native.

“I was in good shape and ready to go,” Gates said. “I thought I could break 23 minutes and finish in the top ten, and that’s how it turned out. I was running with the lead pack down Porter Street, I was still with that group in places 2-7. My legs were getting a little heavy and I was starting to wonder how long I could stay with them. There comes a point in a race where you might say, “I’ve done what I’m capable of and I’m going to let this group go. I can’t hang out with these guys. But I decided I could take it a step further and finished seventh just 12 seconds from second.

Gates, who is listed in both the ECSU Hall of Fame (1980) and the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame (1985), swells with pride as he steps up to the start line at 10 a.m. morning and observe the sights and sounds around him.

“I love the way my hometown makes Thanksgiving,” Gates said. “Get ready to go to Main Street, race and hang out after. It’s good. I had tears in my eyes at the start line when we sang the national anthem. I feel intense pride in the community.

About Ethel Partin

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