Two-time Olympic steeplechaser Donn Cabral is in good shape and feeling confident about the Manchester Road Race

His goal, for a while now, has been to win the race he grew up running, the fabled Manchester Road Race, on Thanksgiving Day.

Cabral, 29, of Hartford finished third over the 4.748-mile course in 2012 in 21:33. He was fourth in 2014 (21:51) and second in 2015 in 21:36.

“If I were to win Manchester,” Cabral said at Thursday’s annual press lunch at the Manchester Country Club, “that would trump winning the Penn Relays, the national title – it would be on the same level as making the Olympic team.

“I’m feeling as confident now for my fitness this year as any year I’ve ever run this.”

The 83rd annual race will take place Nov. 28 at 10 a.m. on Main Street in Manchester. Over 12,000 runners and walkers are expected.

Cabral, who grew up in Glastonbury, said he had a “horrible track season.” Last year, he finished 20th at Manchester in 22:36. But his recent workouts are mirroring his successful past runs.

“I just did a workout which was a 5-mile run, where four miles are at a comfortably hard pace and the last mile’s hard,” he said. “I did that same workout eight days before Thanksgiving in 2012. I ended up running 21:33. I just did the same workout this past weekend, and given conditions and pacing, it was at least equivalent to what I did in 2012. I’m confident going forward. I’m ready to go.”

Cabral has been going to law school and business school but he’s taking the spring semester off to focus on making it to the Tokyo Olympics.

“I’ve had a couple years where I’ve been struggling to kind of get my legs under me and find out what’s been going on,” he said. “I had little bright spots here and there but they’re becoming fewer and further between. To an outside observer, maybe it is age. But there are plenty of 30-year-old runners who are at the top of their career, so I ignore that.

“I’ve spoken with some doctors and I think it’s being able to keep some stressors in my life down and being able to keep the amount of calories up I need to meet those needs.”

Defending champion Edward Cheserek is returning. Cheserek ran a course record 21:16 in bitter cold conditions last year.

“Well, Edward Cheserek is one of the best runners in American history,” Cabral said. “If he wants to go out and run what that time is equivalent to on a good day, I don’t think anyone’s going to be stopping him - 21:16 on the coldest day in Manchester Road Race history is otherworldly. That said, he’s human and he gets beat and he’s not always on his game. When he’s on his game, it would take something I haven’t seen in myself yet to beat him. I think I’m ready to run phenomenally and if he’s at all off, or compromised, I’m ready to take him down.

posted Friday November 22nd
by Lori Riley