Married couple met through Manchester road race; participated since they were kids

MANCHESTER – The 81st Manchester Road Race is just one week away and every year, this event reunites people from all over on Thanksgiving Day.

The start and finish line is in downtown Manchester where it is typically packed with runners who are from Connecticut, out of state or even out of the country.

For people like Eric Blake, 38, a Lebanon native, he has always carried a passion for running especially on mountains.

“I like the thrill of training, the grind getting out every day,” said Blake.

His first time in the race was when he was 11-years-old and he then ran cross country in high school and college and today, he is a coach at Central Connecticut State University.

It was in 2005 when he was at the Spaghetti Dinner, a big event where runners gather on Wednesday night before the race. A woman who was then an acquaintance went up to say hello to him and it was not until one year later, they saw each other again and began a relationship.

“We had ran in the same race but of course, we didn’t know each other,” added Blake.

As time went on, not only did they share a strong love for each other through marriage, but also a love for running.

“It was a neat thing to be able to meet him the night before at the Spaghetti Dinner because I heard so many wonderful things about him,” said Anne Leonard Blake of Manchester.

Both Blake and Leonard did not realize they had been at the race every year and did not know each other. To Anne, she said the race was extra special to her since she was a kid because her father is on the Road Race Committee.

Through volunteering and working on exhibits with her family, Leonard had the chance to her idol, Mary Decker Slaney who is a former gold medalist middle-distance runner from the 80s.

“Every year, I saw friends that I ran with in middle school. Every year, I saw friends that I ran with in high school,” added Leonard.

Since she married Blake in 2012, she said she believes it was her passion for the race that brought them together.