Hartford Half Marathon: Watch Out For That Speed Bump! (And a PR)

On Saturday, October 13, I ran the Hartford Half Marathon, a race I’d been training for for months.  Originally, I had planned on running the full marathon.  However, there came a point during a 12 mile run in the summer when I realized “I really have no appetite to train for a marathon over the summer.”  Having realized that, I switched my focus to trying to PR in the half marathon, one of my favorite distances to race.  Even more exciting than my own race though, was the fact that Rebecca, my sister Sarah, and my cousins would all be racing the Marathon Relay together, with the cousins’ fathers joining me in running the half marathon.  It was great to see a race bringing us all together, a fairly rare occurrence, and the whole day ended up being a fantastic family affair.

In the weeks leading up to the race, my workouts had been going very well.  Exceptionally well, even.  My major concern was a nagging hip injury (more on that later), but the pain I was experiencing usually would go away fairly early into the run.  I took a few days off before the race and was feeling pretty good about where my training had put me.  My past half marathon performances had been:

  1. 2009 New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:43:51
  2. 2011 Providence Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon: 1:56:50
  3. 2012 Run To Remember Half Marathon: 1:50:33

With those times in mind, I thought about what my goal for Hartford should be.  At first, I thought the New Bedford time was out of reach.  After all, that was 2.5 years ago and came while I’d been training for the Boston Marathon.  So I figured I’d start with the 1:50 pace group  and see how I felt in it.  With less than a week to go though, I had a great final tune-up workout.  Riding that high, I knew that I was taking the easy way out with that strategy.  After all, the whole point of this race was to push myself, to see what I had in me.  How could I do that by running at a pace more than 6 minutes off my PR?  The new strategy?  Run with the 1:45 pace group, see how I felt after about 8 miles, and try to make a push from there if I felt I had it in me.

Well, I sort of went with the plan.  As it turned out, two of my fellow Goon Squad Runners were also running the same race, Glamour Hammer and Sonic Boom.  Glamour Hammer, or Marsha, was planning on running 7:50-8 minute miles, about a 1:44 goal, which suddenly seemed perfect to me.  Because Sonic Boom, or Linda, is wicked fast, she was invited as an elite runner and had two seeded entry cards that Marsha and I could use to start ahead of the masses, which was both very much appreciated and perhaps instrumental in the final result.

Having met up with Glamour Hammer and finally figuring out how to get into the seeded start, we were ready to race.  For the first few miles we ran with the marathoners before they went left, and we went right.  All I could think when we did split was “man, I’m glad I’m not one of them!”  The beginning of the race took us through parts of Hartford that I had never been in, despite going up in West Hartford.  What made it is special though is knowing that we were running past places that my mom and her cousins used to work at on the weekends growing up.

It became readily apparent that the descriptions I’d heard of the course being “rolling” were quite accurate.  There were rarely long stretches of flat road, save for the stretch along Troutbrook that was flat, and welcome.  What made the rolling bearable was the fact that most ups were followed by downs.  Personally, I’d much rather that than the kind of courses that feature shorter, steeper hills followed by flat, then gradual downhill that doesn’t really help you recover all that much.  I loved running through the streets of West Hartford, which, despite having run all throughout high school, I never had because it was in a different part of town.  Seems silly now in hindsight.

We had a difficult time trying to gauge how we were doing because the course seemed to be missing mile markers, but we both felt pretty good and Marsha’s GPS mostly assured us we were on pace or ahead of it,when it wasn’t randomly turning off that is.  We were especially confused by the clocks on the course because they seemed to be saying we were running a much different pace than we were.  Of course, I only realized too late that was because it started two minutes ahead of us for the wheelchair racers.

Still, at about mile 8 I was feeling really good and decided to pick up my pace and see if I could maintain it.  All was going well headed into Elizabeth Park, definitely the nicest part of the course.  Then came The Fall.  Roughly five seconds after a course marshal warned in a loud, clear voice to “Watch out for the speed bump,” I tripped over the speed bump.  I’m not sure what happened, but I think I just scuffed my shoe on the top of it and went tumbling down, at which point a concerned Glamour Hammer passed me after I said I was OK.  I really was OK too, with just some minor scrapes and ripped gloves.  All told it could have been a lot worse.  I walked a few steps and then continued on.

I’ll admit after the fall I started having some doubts about whether I could hang on and achieve my goal.  I was starting to feel some pain in my hip and calves, which might have been caused by the fall, or at least exacerbated by it, but I resolved not to let that one bit of clumsy bad luck ruin the race for me.  Though I know my pace slowed towards the end, I pressed on towards the Arch in Bushnell Park.  As I turned the corner up to it (another slight incline) I knew I would be under 1:44.  When I stopped my watch, I saw 1:43:28 (officially 1:43:27) and knew that I had just eked out a brand new, shiny PR.

Hartford turned out to be a great race on a number of levels.  Sure, I would have liked clearer mile markers, but that turned out to be fairly minor.  Fan support was perfect.  There were spots with lots of fans, and spots where you could gather your thoughts.  Running with Glamour Hammer was a lot of fun and I think we both pushed each other when we needed it most.  Rebecca had a great run of her own, which I was very proud of, and it was amazing to share it all with my sister and cousins.  It was everything a race should be, and I look forward to it again in the future.


One Response to “Hartford Half Marathon: Watch Out For That Speed Bump! (And a PR)”

  1. Bettina Says:

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