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ING Hartford Marathon

ImageHaving never competed in more than one marathon in one year, I figured 2013 was a good year to push the limits. After having run a really strong Buffalo Marathon, I decided to sign up for the ING Hartford Marathon to check another race off the bucket list. Billed as a marathon that was flat, well-supported and a good time, the ING Hartford Marathon lived up to all of my expectations and crossing the finish line was a great accomplishment to chalk up for an all around great running year.

Friday afternoon we hit up the marathon expo to pick up my bib number and to scout out the various vendors present at the expo. There was a nice mix of local and national vendors present and and most booths had a free giveaway or a raffle that runners could enter.

Saturday morning, my father drove me from their home in Holyoke, Massachusetts down Route 91 into Hartford and we arrived with plenty of time to spare until the race started. The race started at the foot of the Capitol building and racers gathered in Bushnell Park for the pre-race stretching, food and drink. All of the various charities taking part in the race had tents available and there was a great atmosphere with music keeping the runners awake in the early hours. With a race time start of 8AM, the fall air was still quite cool and I kept layers on until it was time to drop my bag at the Bushnell Theater which was located right next to the starting line.

As runners lined up to start, a classy start to the race included a Connecticut State Trooper singing an amazing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner along with some quick speeches from the Mayor of Hartford and a representative from ING coupled with an invocation that was poignant for runners.

As the wheelchair participants made their way onto the course, the race announcer asked runners to look toward the steps of the State Library where young dancers wearing Run Boston Strong tee-shirts danced to an upbeat version of the Boston anthem Sweet Caroline. The sea of runners chimed in with the requisite “Bum bum bum” on queue.

Next it was go time for the marathon runners. We made our way through the downtown section of Hartford first running past a great contingent of fans with super signs and flags waving. (One of the best ones was “You run better than the government.”) Marathoners and half-marathoners split as we made our way out of the downtown area as the courses were different.

The first 13.1 miles of the race were a rather flat stretch of road and I felt really strong running the first half of the marathon. With some stretches within a park along the river paired to some running through an office park and then back into some residential neighborhoods, it was great to see a lot of people along the way cheering runners on with orange cow bells and blow horns. What was nice about the race was that there was great entertainment along the way ranging from two guys with guitars to a larger scale band to a group singing Hare Krishna chants. At the half-marathon mark I was running an 8:49/mile pace good for a half-marathon time of 1:55:19.

From Mile 14 to Mile 17 was probably one of my favorite stretches of the race as runners made their way through a rather scenic rural stretch complete with farms, large houses and an amazing contingent of supporters along the road. It was the perfect fall day to be running through such a neighborhood and really epitomized what New England running is all about. At Mile 17 I really started to feel some pretty good pain in my right ankle, though, and as we looped back toward Mile 20 I could tell my pace was going to be suffering. Fortunately I ran a moderately strong first 13.1 miles as from Mile 17 on I was running with a rather large amount of pain in my right ankle.

Beth Ann met me at Mile 20 with gummy bears in hand which helped put some sugar back into my body and helped me make my way back onto the pavement. Heading back toward Mile 23 there was a junk food station about 22.5 miles in where I grabbed some flat soda to again get some sugar into my system. At Mile 23 one of the volunteers helped get you through the wall cheering that we were “Hall of Famers” and almost there. A couple of less fortunate runners were being attended to by ambulances between Miles 23 and 25 which always helps put things back into perspective.

As I came upon the Mile 25 sign I knew it was just 1.2 more miles to go; unfortunately that included up an on-ramp bridge to head back into downtown Hartford and the ankle was hurting even more at this point. As soon as I crested the bridge, I knew it was time to kick it back into gear and push with whatever I had left in the tank. I ran a pretty solid last half-mile or so into the finish line and finished the race with a time of 4:33:31 good for 10:29/miles.

ImageAfter Buffalo, which was my marathon PR, the ING Hartford Marathon is my second best marathon time.  I wish my ankle was able to hold up a bit better than it did and as I type this recap today it looks at though someone dropped an anvil on my ankle but us marathon types are tough and I will be back running as soon as the swelling goes down.

The ING Hartford Marathon was a great race and lived up to all the good things I have heard about the race. Great race support, great fans, a really nice course and super amenities. If you are looking for a New England marathon to complete next year, give this one a shot!

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