This past weekend Jodi and I were in Hartford, CT for the Hartford Marathon. I ran the full marathon and Jodi ran the half. For those of you who want the executive summary, I finished the marathon in 3:57:34, a 9:04 average pace, and Jodi crossed the line for the half in 2:23:28, for a 10:57 pace.

It was a gorgeous day for a race. The temperature was a bit higher than would have been ideal, but it was a bright sunny day and the fall foliage was highlighted against a stunningly blue sky. A big chunk of the marathon course is an out-and-back run up the east side of the Connecticut River from East Hartford to South Windsor. The road was lined with old New England homes set in yards with huge trees sporting their fall foliage. I don’t usually notice the scenery when running, but for this race I did and I enjoyed it tremendously.

Tactically, my race went really well. The start was a bit chaotic. This is normal in big races, as the thousands of runners have to sort themselves out by pace and the field stretches out ss you have a bit of room to run. In this case, for some reason several groups of walkers lined up at the front of the race, and in the first half mile I remember having to maneuver around three separate groups of walkers, who had themselves strung out 4 or 5 abreast walking while thousands of runners tried to maneuver past them. I don’t know why they didn’t have enough sense to line up at the back of the pack, but since they apparently didn’t it’s too bad the race organizers didn’t explain it to them.

Anyway, this eventually got itself sorted out and after the first mile I was about a minute and a half over my target pace of 9:00 minutes per mile. Absolutely to be expected at the start of a big field so it didn’t concern me at all. After the first mile I spent the next couple of miles closely monitoring my pace and trying to settle back into my target and get the rhythm started. At mile 3 I was about 45 seconds behind my target time. I chipped away at the deficit slowly and got
closer and closer with each mile, though a quick pee stop just before mile 10 left me 44 seconds behind again, with a 10 mile split of 1:30:44. I made this up quickly, probably getting a bit of a mental boost from the turn-around at the northern end of the out-and-back section just before mile 11, so at mile 12 I was 4 or 5 seconds ahead. I eased up slightly and crossed the 13.1 mile (half-marathon) mat at 1:58:06, which is a 9:01 pace.

I was thrilled with the 1:58 split. That had me on target for a 3:56 marathon, and I figured I would lose a minute or two after mile 20 when my legs started to rebel but would still have a cushion to come in under 4 hours. Around mile 19 I had to make another pit stop but still managed to hit the 20 mile split at 3:00:37, just 37 seconds slow of my target pace. I had started to feel the real fatigue at about mile 18 and that worried me because I didn’t expect to feel that
way until mile 21 or 22, but it wasn’t the desperate fatigue I felt when I hit the wall and fell apart last year at Marine Corps. The last few miles included some minor ups and downs as we ran up and down some overpasses and on the slightly undulating paths on either side of the river. I started to feel the beginning of a charlie horse in my left leg when running the ups but managed to stave it off by slowing up slightly and some judicious pounding on the muscle with my fist. A lot of people were walking in these last miles, and my body really wanted me to join them, if only briefly, but I knew if I gave in to the desire I stood a good chance of blowing my chance of coming in under 4:00 hours, so I resisted and carried on running. This is when I find wearing my Garmin the most helpful, as I could look at my current lap pace — I have it set to automatically lap at each mile — and see that I was slowing down too much and put in a concerted effort to pick up my pace.

Finally, we were back into downtown Hartford and heading up the east side of Bushnell Park. I was looking desperately for the 26 mile banner, and felt great relief when it came into sight. Around the last sharp left and there was the finish. A hard sprint under the Soldiers and Sailors Arch, and I was over the line! My final time of 3:57:34 means I lost about a minute and a half as I slowed in the last 10k. I’ll have to work on that.

We celebrated our races by having dinner on Saturday night with my daughter Anju, my two brothers, and their wives. That was a great time and a highlight of our weekend.

I think now we might look for a half marathon in the next few weeks to run just for fun.