Hartford Marathon

My recovery period is over and considering the length of my usual recovery I should be embarrassed that I haven’t yet gotten my race report down. 3+ weeks have lapsed, which means most physical memories of the race have faded into oblivion. This is a good thing because even when races go well – they’re rarely a breeze. If I clearly remembered what it feels like to run a marathon, I might be a bit more hesitant to continue toeing the line each season.

That being said…here’s a report!

The Hartford Marathon was unique to my previous marathon experience. Prior to October 12, 2013, all 8 marathons I had run were Marathon Majors races (Boston ’06, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’13; Chicago ’08, ’10; and NYC ‘09). This means they’re big races, with big prize money, big elite fields, and big crowd support. Hartford however was significantly smaller, ~3k people vs 20k people. This difference played out in several ways, most notably:

A race vs. a run – for the first time really, I was in contention for prize money at a marathon. What?! While I don’t like to focus on it while training or running (it can be distracting to think of competitors as money lost or won), especially since my primary goal with marathoning is still to improve my time, this meant that Hartford would be an actual race. Not only was it personally tactical (me vs. the marathon) but it meant that I would also be tactical about how I ran in regards to other women on the course.

Treatment – I was lucky enough to be selected to be part of Hartford’s New England’s Finest program. The perks of the program far exceeded any expectation I had when I applied. Hartford treated us so well and helped make the race the primary focus for us as athletes. No worrying about hotel, food, bathrooms, and on-course amenities. Really superstar treatment! They were really concerned with taking care of the extraneous things to help us toward our best races. In addition, being part of the program meant a chance at an increased prize purse ($$$)!

But, seriously – a huge thank you to the Hartford Marathon and the New England’s Finest Program. They made for an amazing race experience.

Crowd Support – If you know me well – you know that I rarely like running side by side with people in races. I know there’s the argument that working together helps you toward better times, but in my previous marathons, I’ve enjoyed having some space and being able to focus on myself entirely.

In a race as long as 26.2 miles, there is a lot of time for variations in comfort and strength. I know could find myself feeling great at mile 5 to feel horrible at mile 11, to feel great again at mile 15. I could feel slowed on flats, but powerful on hills. Marathons take a huge amount of focus and it can be distracting to find myself next to someone who might want to chat or who has some keys jangling in their pockets with each step (this really happened to me). I may also find myself playing an exhausting (mentally and physically) yo-yo running game with someone.*[note that this is not always the case and I have enjoyed and had success in running with people – but in most cases these are people I have trained with and know their goals, running tendencies, etc.]

In these large races, even when I’ve run most of the race solo as a competitor, there are usually thousands of people lining the roads from start to finish. So I rarely felt ‘alone’ as I had people supporting me all along the way.

This year, I really struggled with loneliness along the course as I would find myself running for miles seeing no competitors and only a few supporters. It took a large amount of mental energy to focus on continuing to race, continuing to maintain pace. It made me really happy that I had done a number of longer tempos on my own (mainly on the track). I can recall one particular 10 mile tempo on the track, when, at 7.5 miles in I considered ending at 8. When I assessed how I felt, I realized I was feeling physically fine to continue on, but was just mentally tired of the repetitive loops. In that particular instance, continuing those extra two miles proved to be helpful as it trained me for the portions of this race where I was in charge of maintaining race focus.

As far as details go, I spent the first 8 or so miles of the race trying to run strong, but relaxed and easy. These are the careful miles where you try not to go too too fast, but work to position yourself well for the final stages of the run/race. These miles wound through the city, through parks and neighborhoods. Until ~mile 4, I could still see Hilary and Erica in the distance, and through mile 12 I had the one guy about 50 meters or so ahead of me. We wove in and out of points of spectator support and I was able to see John a handful of times.

The out and back portion from mile 10 – 17 – 24 was tough. Despite having been warned by Terry that we may face a headwind, I was surprised by how significant the wind actually was. I had hoped to be able to tuck in behind some beefy dude (those exist in marathon running, right?), but no luck. There was one guy about 50 meters ahead of me and even though I considered a surge to try to get up to him, I ultimately chose to stay where I was and plug along on my own. It was a bit difficult to try to block out any negative thoughts about how long we’d be running into that wind before turning around to have it at our backs. There was a point around mile 18, after having missed the second elite fluid station (and many other regular fluid stations – due to people not seeing me) that I started to feel wobbly enough to make me worry for the additional 8 miles. Luckily though, I was able to secure my bottle at the third elite station around mile 21 (even luckier that the bottle was one that I had taped a gu to). I still struggled in that last 10k, but having that extra sugar definitely made a difference.

Shortly after grabbing my bottle, the currently 3rd place woman (who had bolted at the beginning of the race) came into my view. Though I was feeling pretty rough at that point, I was heartened by the fact that I was able to pass her quickly and strongly. I remember telling myself that my body was still responding quite well, despite how I felt. Usually around this point, my body is on autopilot and in this race I was happy as I clicked through each mile mark, to see that I wasn’t seeing any significant slowing. I passed a couple guys in the next couple miles and received a welcome mini-bottle of water from a Hare/Hari Krishna who came out into the road to hand it to me. As I mentioned, I missed several of the water stops since many of the volunteers didn’t see me, so this was very much appreciated and a nice boost. Even though it was relatively cool, I was able to take a good swig and then poured the rest over my head.

I was also very fortunate in those last few miles to see some friends a handful of times (Stef and Brian, John, and Jordan). Having new ‘goals’ of making it until I saw them again really helped with those final few miles. It’s amazing how helpful friends can be when you need to dig deep.

Even though I did not have a huge understanding of the course going in, the one thing that I did recall from the map was that the last mile had a pretty significant hill. Sure enough, right after mile marker 25, there was a highway on-ramp that wound upward at what felt like a pretty significant grade. I remember trying so hard to push to not lose speed on this hill. I didn’t know how close, but I knew that I was cutting it close to the 2:43 mark. Once we got over the hump, I started to push even harder. Despite having hardly any company at all for miles 9-25 of this race, I did have a bike join me for a mile or two around mile 18. Though they rode about 50-100 meters ahead, it was nice having their company to focus on. Throughout the last ¾ mile, I was joined again by 2-3 bikers who rode around helping direct. It was nice having them zooming around, ‘keeping me company’.

I could tell that I was getting close to the finish by the increase in spectators lining the road, but since I still couldn’t see it, I didn’t want to start really sprinting. It’s rough when you start your finishing sprint, to come around a corner and realize you have a 500 meter straightaway to push through.  (It reminded me a lot of the finish of Beach to Beacon). Though soon, I came around a turn and there it was. Still a decent distance away, but I could just make out the numbers on the clock 2:42…something. I started to really push and realized shortly after that the numbers I couldn’t make out were 52….53. Having spent a lot of my training running to catch crossing signals – I knew even at a fresh sprint, I wasn’t going to make it across the finish in 7…6….5 seconds. I do believe I still pushed through the line, at least for the additional seconds on my PR. Probably the hardest I’ve finished in a marathon. Surprisingly; I wasn’t immediately hard on myself. I remember the first person I saw was Meagan and was able to joke with her about the mere seconds.

Shortly after, we were swept away for awards and then we rushed to the hotel for a quick shower before dashing to the car for a hectic trip to NJ for  Joe and Waverly’s amazing wedding.

Overall, I’m happy with this race. Though I missed the OT qualifier by seconds, it was fun and provided some great experience. Even though it was my 9th marathon, it was so very different than any of my previous races and I learned a lot about racing and how I want to approach my training for future races.

It was also super fun to run a marathon with so many friends and teammates in the race (half and full) and made for a fun weekend.

ps – another final shoutout to the Hartford Marathon and their New England’s Finest program. So wonderful and supportive!

Results (aka – look how speedy my friends/New England runners are!) – special congrats to Erica and Hilary who ran OT qualifying times!

************************************************************
                   TOP TEN WOMEN OVERALL IN THE MARATHON
       ************************************************************

Place Div   Guntime  Pace  Name                     Age Sex Race# Hometown                           
===== ===== =======  ===== ======================== === === ===== ============================= = 
    1 F2024 2:38:13   6:03 Erica Jesseman            24 F       3 Scarborough ME (OLYMPIC TRIALS QUALIFIER and personal record)                 
    2 F2529 2:39:40   6:06 Hilary Dionne             28 F       1 Cambridge MA   (OLYMPIC TRIALS QUALIFIER)                 
    3 F2529 2:43:16   6:14 Sarah Bard                29 F      13 Somerville MA                   
    4 F2024 2:44:49   6:18 Aregash Abate             22 F      11 High Falls NY                   
    5 F3034 2:48:36   6:26 Katie Edwards             31 F      17 South Glastonbury CT            
    6 F2529 2:51:01   6:32 Kate Pallardy             28 F      21 New York NY                     
    7 F2529 2:55:02   6:41 Larisa Dannis             26 F    2630 Strafford NH                    
    8 F2024 2:57:11   6:46 Emily D'Addario           22 F    2031 Boston MA                       
    9 F3539 2:57:24   6:46 Jackie Evans              38 F       5 East Longmeadow MA              
   10 F4549 2:58:12*  6:48 Mary-Lynn Currier         49 F      15 Burlington CT                   
Record 2:33:23 by Ramilia Burangulova in 2003
  ************************************************************
                TOP TEN WOMEN OVERALL IN THE HALF MARATHON
       ************************************************************

Place Div   Guntime  Pace  Name                     Age Sex Race# Hometown                         
===== ===== =======  ===== ======================== === === ===== ============================= 
    1 F2529 1:13:19   5:36 Megan Hogan               25 F    7038 Saratoga Springs NY           
    2 F2024 1:13:26   5:37 Pauline Wanjiru           24 F    7053 Hartford CT                   
    3 F2529 1:13:43   5:38 Desta Girma               26 F   10000 Bronx NY                      
    4 F3539 1:16:08*  5:49 Marie Davenport           37 F    5481 Guilford CT                   
    5 F3034 1:17:40   5:56 Meagan Nedlo              30 F    7026 Salem MA                      
    6 F2529 1:19:50   6:06 Alexandra Varanka         28 F    7034 Amherst NH                    
    7 F2024 1:20:55   6:11 Krisztina Dearborn        21 F   10589 New Britain CT                
    8 F2024 1:21:10   6:12 Carly Dion                24 F    7014 Biddeford ME                  
    9 F4044 1:21:28   6:13 Mary Pardi                43 F    7028 Falmouth ME                   
   10 F4044 1:21:53   6:15 Shannon McHale            42 F    7506 West Simsbury CT              
Record 1:11:18 by Kim Smith of Providence in 2011
* Under USATF Age-Group guideline

****************************************************************************************
                 TOP TEN MEN OVERALL IN THE HALF MARATHON
       ***********************************************************************************

Place Div   Guntime  Pace  Name                     Age Sex Race# Hometown                         
===== ===== =======  ===== ======================== === === ===== ============================= 
    1 M3034 1:05:13#  4:59 Julius Mbugua             30 M    7051 Hartford CT                   
    2 M2529 1:05:53   5:02 Kiplangat Terer           27 M    7001 Santa Fe NM                   
    3 M2024 1:06:39   5:05 Benard Mwangi             22 M    7052 Hartford CT                   
    4 M2024 1:06:43   5:06 Jonas Hampton             24 M    7003 Hartford CT                   
    5 M2529 1:08:06   5:12 Brian Harvey              26 M    7017 Boston MA                     
    6 M2529 1:08:36   5:14 Michael James Fonder      27 M    7015 Tenafly NJ                    
    7 M2529 1:09:09   5:17 Alex Paley                27 M    7029 Albany NY                     
    8 M2529 1:09:26   5:18 Nicholas Wheeler          27 M    7007 Portland ME                   
    9 M2529 1:09:50   5:20 Jaime Julia               29 M    7019 Albany NY                     
   10 M2529 1:09:56   5:21 Chase Pizzonia            27 M    7031 Bronx NY

4 thoughts on “Hartford Marathon

  1. Congrats Sarah!!! I rarely enjoy reading race reports, but yours are great! Keep up the good writing and running! Hopefully I’ll be back out there running with you soon.

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    1. Thanks Mollie! Hope to see you on the roads soon (though I’ve been making my comeback pretty slow but sure as well…). Maybe I’ll give in to the peer pressure of almost everyone I know and splurge on a visit to Brooklyn Boulders soon?

      Like

  2. Congrats on a great race! I really enjoyed reading this race recap and while those 16 seconds are incredibly frustrating, next time on a course without a monster hill at the end, you’ll be well below that Standard 2:43.

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