Hartford Marathon Race Report

To start recapping the story of Hartford and Newport, I must first start in why I would sign up for two marathons in a row. No, I didn’t bump my head on a recent run. Although if you seen my instagram lately, I did come pretty close! My poor knees =(.

To be honest, I’ve wanted to run doubles for a while, but it always seemed silly to go through the logistics of travel and cost and not really be able to devote full power and energy into a race. Finally, I decided October, a few weeks away from Stonecat (my official 50 miler) and Ghost Train (A timed event where if weather is tolerable, I would like to break 50) was perfect timing.  It’s just two back to back training runs used for a ultimate goal. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Not the fact that I wanted to see if I could push my endurance to another level. Something I’ve been questioning as I failed a few attempts at a 50 miler. Am I the problem, is my terrain the problem, or is it all just a mental game. I still didn’t know the answer, but I knew that in the comfort of a marathon, the support, the familiar terrain and just the stubbornness that hits me when my feet hit the pavement, I knew that I would succeed, maybe not fast, but I would finally hit my threshold of getting 50 miles in a two days.

So back to Hartford, I signed up the race sometime mid to end of September. While the cost wasn’t completely tragic, around $100 versus I think 80 or so for earlier registration, I did miss out on some conveniences. If I registered before September, I could have had my packet mailed to me (for a cost of course), and I could have had a seeded corral start (not that it ended up mattering).

The expo was a Saturday race. I know, you don’t see that happening too often in large scale marathons. And like my other Saturday race that I’ve done, they don’t do same day packet pick up. That means there’s only a few ways of getting your packet. Paying them more $$$$$ to mail you a number, which I couldn’t do since I signed up too late, taking a vacation day and driving up early, or having a friend pick it up for you with a signed waiver and copy of your photo ID. Luckily, a friend of mine was also running so I went with my final option. Although, I didn’t go to the expo, from the photos I saw, it seemed to be a fun time.

And so Friday began once of the longest (non-snow related) drives of my life. Tony and I left work around 5:30 and my Google Maps was still saying it was about 2:20 to go from Boston to Hartford. I figured we get my number from my friend and have some dinner.

Yes, I’m a late dinner marathoner. Here’s my theory. If I eat late, I’m not starving in the morning and I don’t have to wake up early to eat and then digest. So far it works far better than the 5PM dinner idea where I go to bed hungry by 10 and starving at the sound of my alarm.

Anyways, it gets to 7:30 and we barely have left Boston. We’re about 20 miles out of town, in a gridlock. I guess Columbus Day weekend Friday is the worst travel day of the year, worse than Thanksgiving. Considering Tony and I have never worked for a place that had Columbus Day off, we were like… seriously? I’ll avoid the rant about what a terrible person Columbus was and let you enjoy your day of if you get one.

So yea, we gave up; the next exit was about 9 miles away, which probably meant another hour, so we hit one of those highway food courts. I really hate eating at highway food courts. They’re sort of like mall courts only dirtier and have you trapped on a pike because you really don’t feel like paying the toll twice. However, they rig the prices up 30% and somehow everything tastes more stale and oily than a regular chain off the highway would.

I’ve been craving pizza for a while now, so we hit up Pappa John’s and got a whole pie because I was starting to get really hungry. I don’t remember what my lunch was if any, but it couldn’t have been very exciting because at this rate I contemplated getting two pies for two people.

Hartford Marathon (5)

Anyways, we eat and try to wait out some traffic, but nothing seems better 30 minutes later so we move on and eventually make our way into Hartford, where I get my number from Lori and we head north another 15 minutes to our hotel. Upon my number, I immediately inspected my swag and was really excited about the long sleeve shirt that came with the race packet.

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Our hotel north of Hartford was nothing exciting, it was somewhere between a motel 6 and a Holiday Inn; comfortable enough to sleep but not enough to keep you from not wanting to get up when your alarm goes off.

6:30 AM for an 8AM start. 45 minutes for me and Tony to get ready, maybe nibble at some bread at the hotel breakfast, drive 15 minutes to Hartford Downtown and be ready to start by 7:45…

All plans have good intentions and although I’ve done countless races, and I should know better… I don’t.

I will take an extra 30 minutes of sleep over a stress free race morning.

Yes, they closed all the exits off the highway and then all the roads leading up to 2 miles to the race start area.

And it’s raining so I’m really in no mood to add an extra 2 miles to my 26.2ish (I ain’t no pro). We circle around with several other cars that are probably in the same, oh shit, I should have woken up earlier problem. There’s police detail, but the weather is miserable and most seem to be hiding inside their squad car and we’re at a loss of where to go. We see another car sneaking through the police barricades via Walgreen and etc. parking lots and Tony follows to get me closer to the start. When I’m a few blocks away and it doesn’t look like we can get any closer, I kiss goodbye and off I head out, hoping the starting line is somewhere nearby.

So I find a starting line… I’m getting ready to wiggle my way in when I hear something about a 5K and I dumbly remember, there are TWO starting lines.

Yes, my dumb wet butt almost started the race in the wrong line.

I quickly, turn away from that started and tried to find people whose bibs matched mine. Luckily, it was nearby and the race already started so I tried to make the best of it.

I don’t know how many people run Hartford between the full and the half marathon, but I know they take up the whole road. I’m not sure how many minutes we’re into the race, it’s raining, so my cell phone is safely stashed in a ziplock in my rain gear I decided to test out. Thank you Adidas outlet $15! I’m not fully sure how late I am, but I could tell by the large mob of people in the front, it must have been a few minutes at least. I tried to make the best of it, and make wave through the people, on the sides, maybe a sidewalk but I’m at a dead end of walking trashbags.

I know, I really try not to judge and I have incredibly respect for all sorts of runners, but theirs is nothing more frustrating than wanting to move forward and being stuck behind a group of women walking at the start of a race. Yes, I know, it’s my fault for getting there late.

I’m pretty much kicking myself and then reminding myself that it’s good I’m being forced to take it slow. After all, I have another marathon in less than 24 hours I should worry about. But if there’s one thing I really hate, it’s running in the rain.

I have run and completed more marathons than I’d like in countless degrees of rain from freezing to heat-wave). If I’m racing, there’s a high chance of precipitation. It’s just how it works. The amount of training runs on my own accord that I have done in the rain? ZERO and I will probably keep it that way. I hate running in the rain. I’ll swim in the rain, maybe even dance in the rain, but I am not running in the rain unless I absolutely have to because I paid to run on that day.

So, I try to make my way through as my current running pace my Garmin is currently having me at a 11 minute per mile on a downhill is driving me crazy. I was starting to feel really wet and really cold. I needed to find space and at least get into a 9 minute jog. Unfortunately, the sidewalk in downtown Hartford is about as pleasant at Providence. And after my faceplant on the pavement a week ago, I try my best to avoid the obstacles.

And then, like a beacon of heavenly light, a few miles in, the half and the marathon course split up. I give praise to one god, or another, or whoever will listen to me. Because finally I have room! What can I say, I love road races, but I’m a claustrophobic at times.

I decided to cover up my Garmin in rain jacket and just run at a comfortable steady pace as if I was doing a regular long time. I pretty much keep my Garmin cover for the next 10 miles or so. I decided that I wouldn’t allow myself a peak until I hit the halfway point.

I slowly started catching up on the pace groups. 4:30 first, 4:00, 3:45, and eventually the 3:30 group where I told myself to slow down. I know that 3:35 is about an 8:11 pace and with the slow/late start, I knew I must have clocked in some sub 8 miles. So it was time to relax more. I had a slow week of running as I tried to adjust to my new work schedule and I knew, the ease of running I was feeling, was the feel of a taper. Nice, but I needed to not use it all up in Day 1 of the weekend.

So 3:30s and I hung out for a good while. I tried my best to stay just in front of them, but still keep them in my sight. I don’t generally like to run in pace groups, because I find them crowded and I like being a lone soldier on the road. Maybe a buddy or two, but otherwise, I don’t like staying in a pack. Also, I’m pretty sure someone in that group crapped themselves around mile 8. I felt sorry for the dude, but not enough to keep smelling it. I’m like a pregnant woman when I run. Any smell can set me off into a gag reflex.

The course for the first 14 miles or so was an interesting mix. We hit the downtown area, some industrial parks and what looked like a really nice running path along a river.  In between that we went up and down highway ramps to go from place to place, but It kind of felt like we were running a circle a bit. There were no real hills, but the highway ramps did start to feel tiring after a bit. I’m sure there were more interesting things to take note of, in fact, the race organizers provide you a very nice long list of things to look out for at every mile, but with the rain and my visor on, I just focused on moving forward and keeping my rain out of my eyes.

The second part of the race was an out and back suburban road. While, I normally find a little boring, it was nice to get even more robotic into my run. There was no, twists, turns, curbs to look out for. I can just run forward, find a turnaround point and run back. It was really cool to see the elite runners run on their way back. First ran the men, then a woman, then some more men. Elite runners always look so elegant. I don’t know how when I run, I always look like an orangutan. My hair is always sticking out at all ends, and the sides of thigh jiggling. I may be able to get faster, but I don’t think I’ll ever get to be a Runners World model. O well, such is life.

We hit mile 20 and I realize, I’m currently running a sub 3:30, maybe 3:25 marathon. Which is probably a very bad idea and I decide now is a good time to walk. I try my best to slow down but the rain seems to only fall harder. I decide to work my best on a run/walk combo at every mile marker. I figured if I turn this into a 20 miler and a 10K easy run, I had hopes of having a strong half marathon at Newport the next day and I thought this would work. Trying to take an easy slow run when it’s miserable outside and you just want to be finish is definitely a mental strength I did not half. The walk breaks at every mile helped, but it was hard to keep walking when the other side of the road runners were cheering you on. So I ran more than I should have and before I knew it, I was in the final two miles. I was closing in on the downtown area finish line, and the crowds of cheering people seemed to get louder. And as I got into the final mile of the race, I forgot all about my walk break and got lost in the cheer and excitement of a crowd and the joy that as soon as I crossed that finish line, I can seek out dry clothes and warmth.

Hartford Marathon (6)

I found Tony, my loyal cheerleader and crew waiting for me at the finish line as I walked trembling shaking, from the coldness that hits me when I stop running. In the car we cranked up the heat and I began my routine of changing in a car that I’m a pro at by now post races. And I continued by putting on every layer I had with me because I packed like a child the night before bringing everything and nothing I actually needed. Why yes, I am wearing 4 cotton long sleeves and no coasts. It’s the new classy.

Hartford Marathon (4)

After getting dry, we walked back to the festival. I think the award ceremony probably already happened and I went in search of the food. The food tent at first felt disappointing. They had a cup of those scary preserved fruit, a banana, tomato soup and cold grilled cheese sandwiches. I really wanted some chicken noodle or clam chowder. Luckily, no one minded me taking extra cups of coup and by my third cup; I was starting to feel a bit happier and even wholeheartedly enjoyed my cold grilled cheese.

There was a hot dog stand too, that made my day, even though normally I don’t even go near a hot dog. However, when you’re hungry and you just ran a marathon, you can eat all the crap you want.

Hartford Marathon (1)

And of course nothing tastes better than a pumpkin beer; no matter how wet it got out there.

Hartford Marathon (3)

Overall, I had a great time at Hartford and if you’re looking for a race to knock off Connecticut for a state, or just something nearby if you’re from the area, this is a good one!

Pros

  • Volunteers are amazing. Seriously, the only thing I could imagine that’s worse about running in the rain is standing at an aid station in the rain. My most respect to you guys and gals!
  • Music, bands, bagpipe players! It was a shame the weather was so terrible, because I could tell in sunny weather this would have been a giant party
  • The race is really well organized, it started on time, aid stations well stocked and after party village from the food and beer tent seemed in top shape.
  • Relatively flat course, particularly the second half
  • Halloween candy aid station, yes
  • Well at first I didn’t get it, the tomato soup/grilled cheese combo really was comforting
  • Harpoon beer! I like Harpoon as a beer and sometimes I find beer really refreshing after an endurance event. Just not shitty beer.
  • Pretty nice long sleeve shirts, really loving mine

Cons

  • You need to get to the start early since the roads close and unless you’re in a race hotel there’s no way to get there without a car.
  • No day of packet pickups for race numbers which means either paying extra if you register early, having a nice friend whose there early, or taking a day off from work (if you work Fridays).
  • Full marathon and Half marathon starts at the same time causing mass congestions if you want to run your own pace and not the mass pace
  • There’s parts of the course where it’s just the marathon on a bike path that I felt were pretty tight and crowded spots as well. Luckily, I wasn’t racing.
  • Hartford is not a very exciting place to visit, sorry, but its two hours from Boston and two hours from NY so all the fun tends to go elsewhere. So, I wouldn’t really say it’s the best destination race unless you’re on route to somewhere else; but it is a great Connecticut fall race if you’re in the market for one.

Total Time: 3:31:31

Overall Place: 376/2419

Gender Place: 70/1070

I feel pretty happy that I was able to run a BQ on a fairly steady pace. I think with the exception of my first few crazy miles and my last 10K that I tried to slow down in, I ran a fairly steady race with no wall besides the I really wish it would stop raining already wall.

8 thoughts on “Hartford Marathon Race Report”

  1. Great job on running a BQ in crappy conditions and with a late start and just before another marathon :). I liked your race review and this looks like a really good one for anyone looking for a half/full or wanting to knock a state out for 50 states. That is a cool shirt and I would personally love grilled cheese and soup after a race, although I agree it’s gotta be hard for them to serve that up hot in crappy conditions and with so many finishers.

    I’m not really fast, but I hate getting stuck behind people in races. I felt like I have done that and actually wasted energy trying to get out of big packs and backups. Can’t wait to read about your 2nd race too- I guess 2 back-to-back marathons would be a really good prep method for an ultra.

    1. Thanks! Yea, I appreciate people wanting to run in a group, but it’s so frustrating when you have no way to get around the groups. It why I always try to start in the front so I can run my own pace if I can.

  2. New reader here! Awesome race recap. I’ve only run one marathon, so you’re casual tone of discussing the miles going by is CRAZY to me. So inspiring though! I know a lot of other runners who have made good time in the rain as well…makes sense I guess. Looking forward to hearing about race #2.

    1. Thanks Annie! Heh, I’m usually more conscience of the mile splits but I think the rain turned the race into just a large blur for me where the only moment I really recalled was the finish line. Usually I like taking photos of what I see but the rain made me recoil into my raincoat!

      Glad to have a new reader and good luck with your running!

  3. My in-laws live just outside Hartford, so I refuse to go down on a Friday night because even on a non-holiday weekend, Friday travel easily takes 3-4hours for a 2 hour trip. Ugh.

    Congrats on a great race, I can’t wait to read about Newport. If I ever decide to run marathon I think I’ll choose Hartford, the city might not be great, but I’ve heard good things about the race.

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