Chris Thompson didn’t have a particular plan going into Thursday’s Manchester Road Race.
But before he started, he got some advice from four-time winner and former course record holder John Treacy, who was this year’s honorary race chairman with his brother Ray.
“He said, ‘Push up the hill,’ and I didn’t think anything of it, but it must have got into my head,” said Thompson, a 2012 British Olympian from Hampshire, England. “About 400 [meters] in, it entered my head. Push up the hill.”
So Thompson did, leading the race through the first mile in 4:18 and the second, up the punishing Highland Street hill, in 4:58. He crested the top in the lead, winning the King of the Hill competition and a $1,000 bonus.
Thompson ended up finishing third, 2 seconds behind Paul Chelimo, who outkicked him on Main Street to win the 4.748-mile race in 21:32.
“When they got to the [top of the hill], I was like, ‘Man, Chris, there is no way you’re going to win the whole thing,’” Chelimo said, laughing. “We’ve got to share, you know? If I was going to get the King of the Hill, I would probably be nice and let him win the whole thing. But now since he got the King of the Hill, I was like, ‘I’ve got to get the bigger share now.’”
Molly Huddle, who finished second among the women, one second behind Buze Diriba, was the Queen of the Hill. Both women broke the course record, with Diriba winning in 23:57.
Thompson had a front-row view of the wild sprint to the finish last year between Ben True and Leonard Korir but wasn’t really involved in it and finished third. This year, he was a participant.
“Last year, no one got a gap,” Thompson said. “I just anticipated whoever was in the front would set the pace and we would sit on it. I was a little shocked no one went. I didn’t feel tired, so I kept going. Once you’ve done it, your game plan is set. There’s no going back. You’ve got to keep pushing. Even if one catches me, there’s still the rest of the field you’ve got to keep off.
“Once I got to the top, I thought, ‘I will not forgive myself if I’m not with the lead group coming round the last bend.’”
He was, with Kirubel Erassa, who finished second, and Chelimo.
“When we came around the last bend, still, with 400 or even 300 to go, I thought, ‘I’ve got a gear. I just don’t know if it’s enough,’” Thompson said. “They just had that little bit less fatigue in there. That was possibly because I worked a little too hard up the hill.
“I don’t regret anything. I ran as honest and hard as I could. I’m pleased with third again. Second would have been nice. Winning it would have been lovely. But what can you do?”