I’ve had my last fifteen marathons mapped out on the calendar for over a year. As I got closer to state #50, I realized that getting these final events to fall correctly in a timeline would be as important as the training itself. My “master schedule” had me at forty- eight states by December of 2019, with Connecticut in late March and my final race in Missouri in early April. But then registration for the Go! Saint Louis Marathon opened, and the race had moved back one week. I immediately contacted the race director for the Savin Rock Marathon (in Connecticut) and discovered that they planned to move their race up by a week. So now I had two marathons scheduled for the same day with no good way to rework my plans.
I looked at EVERY certified course for my remaining states to see if there were viable alternatives, and the best that I could come up with was to run the Hartford Marathon on October 12th followed by Atlantic City on October 20th. On the plus side, I have heard wonderful things about Hartford. However, I have never run two marathons a week apart, and I was terrified that this new schedule would set me up for failure in New Jersey. There is a first time for everything, though. I knew that if I could nail these two races, it would essentially be smooth sailing to Saint Louis.
My last three marathon finishes have been over 3:30, so I’ve been feeling pretty off my game lately. My goal for Hartford was to take advantage of a good course and try and squeak in somewhere in the 3:29 range—fast enough to check this state off but not so fast that I’d burn myself out for the following weekend. My plans were almost foiled before the race began due to a crazy situation with my hotel: I left my room at 7:30 for my 8:00 start time. I got about three steps away from my door when I realized that I’d left my iPod and headphones in the room. I have never run a race without listening to music nor did I have any desire to try. I enjoy talking to people on a course, but I like having the steady drum of a beat in my ear– even if it is playing at a low volume. Music is a crutch, I know, but it makes the three and a half hours that I am pounding the pavement so much more enjoyable. When I tried to unlock my door, the magnetic key wouldn’t work. I went down to the front desk to get it reprogrammed, and it still wouldn’t unlock my room. At this point I was starting to panic because it was now 7:40. When the manager on duty’s master key also failed, I knew that I was fucked. Apparently, the battery in my electronic lock had died, and there was no way to open my door until maintenance arrived. (It took another ten minutes to confirm the fact that they were, in fact, not in the building.)
I wish I could say that I handled the situation with grace and good humor, but I was panicked and not at all a happy camper. Like most type- A runners, I am a creature of extreme habit and do not take well to last minute changes in my routine—especially on race morning. Had I planned to run with no music, it wouldn’t have been a big deal; but because this knowledge was sprung on my ten minutes before the starting gun, I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to make it to mile twenty- six.
Needless to say, I began this race feeling flustered and defeated. I had to run to the start line from my hotel in order to get there on time. I made it with a couple of minutes to spare, but not early enough to properly tie my shoes; one came undone during mile #2. I started out around a 7:50 pace and figured that I would hold that tempo until the 3:30 pace group caught up to me. I had heard at the expo that the pacer was a fairly talkative guy, and I was counting on that to get me through miles 13-21.
The last five marathons that I’ve run have been on the smaller side, so it was very refreshing to run on such a well- supported course. There were tons of volunteers all along the route and aid stations every mile or two. (Aid stations that were manned with volunteers who clearly delineated between water and energy drink EVERY TIME. It sounds like a small thing, but it’s not.) I was also pleasantly surprised to see so many spectators along the course—especially when we ran out of Hartford and into the smaller, surrounding towns. It felt a bit like the Flying Pig Marathon in Ohio: anyone who could come out and support the race did. Also, as promised, this was a very nice course. There are some rolling hills throughout the first half of the race, but none of them are extreme. Then, we had a four mile out and back that was pancake flat. The last few miles of the race contained three hills. The only one that felt difficult was the uphill at mile 26. It did allow us to run a downhill to the finish line, though. The weather was absolutely perfect: 50’s and overcast with little wind. Plus, the New England fall foliage was on full display. It would be hard to ask for a better day or a better setup.
With such outstanding conditions, my race went much better than I’d anticipated. Running without music wasn’t enjoyable, but it wasn’t as terrible as I’d feared. I found some people to chat with along the way, and there were a number of bands, DJs, and cheering sections set up throughout the route. The 3:30 pace group “found” me around mile ten, so that increased the number of people that I could talk with. (God bless our pacer for letting me talk his ear off for ten miles.) I thought that the last six miles would be super- difficult without having something to listen to, but I was feeling good and had no trouble maintaining my pace through the finish. I was even able to speed up on the last three miles. I ended up coming in at 3:29:15, exactly where I had hoped to be. It pains me to admit it, but I likely ran a smarter race sans the iPod. This was such a nice course that I would have been very tempted to run a fast race which could then bite me in the ass next weekend….
Overall, Hartford was an excellent race, and I’d 100% do it again or recommend it to a friend. My hotel drama marred my weekend some, but I still very much enjoyed the event.
Sub 4 State: 45, BQ State #45, Sub 3:30 State #22
Finish Time: 3:29:15
Place Within My Gender: 56/ 572
Total Training Miles: 9,212.95
Shoe Total: 28