October 11, 2008
8 am start?! Isn’t that really late?? After double checking the website umpteen times and asking the race director “if he was sure” (!) the race began at 8, I set my alarm clock to essentially sleep in on race day. My hotel was across from Bushnell Park, where the ING Hartford marathon began and ended, so I was able to take my time and enjoy a leisurely breakfast with other runners. Cindy, the breakfast attendant, asked “which one of you will win today?!” and then inquired if our marathon was shorter than the one they do in Boston. Bless her heart.
Despite being on extremely narrow roads, the first few miles out of the park and through downtown were great! I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect autumn day- the sky was a stunning turquoise-blue backdrop to the intense reds, fiery oranges, and bright yellow leaves on the trees. As we went over the bridge and into a quaint residential area, complete with white picket fences, farm animals, and pumpkin patches, I thought “I am running in a Norman Rockwell painting!”
I ran these beginning miles quickly, clocking 1:22:46 at 10 miles. I don’t recall thinking the pace was TOO fast; I was simply focused on my “first 10 miler”. During a marathon, I always break the race up into 3 parts: 10, 10, and 6.2. During 1-10, I only allow myself to think of those miles. Mile 11, in my mind, becomes mile 1 of my “2nd 10 miler”. The third segment, at a little over 6 miles, is when I’m “allowed” to break down the numbers on the clock. This allows me to digest the intimidating number of 26.2 miles and focus on the task at hand. I wanted to complete this race in under 4 hours.
Because of the out and back turnaround on a 3 mile stretch, I was able to see almost the entire marathon field- the frontrunners coming back as I was headed out and those behind me as I headed back. It was exciting to see the (many!) Marathon Maniacs who would give a thumbs up and an encouraging “hey, Maniac!” Even the spectators and volunteers noticed there were a lot of us- toward the beginning of the race I’d overhear them say, “there’s another one” and by the end they were all, “Yeeeaaaahhh Marathon Maniacs!” Even the live bands, one about every other mile, caught onto our presence and gave shout outs!
I hit the half at 1:48:02, just before seeing the BEST spectator sign of the day: Running on King Street is better than investing on Wall Street! By the time we hit the waterfront at Great River Park, I was cruising just in time to hear my favorite feel-good association song, “Cupid Shuffle”. I was with Trey in Kentucky when I heard it for the first time and my friend Terrill and I had a blast learning the dance, which is totally Electric Slide meets Soulja Boy. Anyway, I hit a button on my mp3 to turn it up (or so I think), but when the song played again, again, and yet again…yep, I realized I had pressed “repeat” instead. Nonetheless, I Cupid Shuffled my way through the “second 10 miler”, hitting 20 miles at 2:45:50.
Crossing Founders Bridge and into Riverside Park, I was too distracted by the beauty of Hartford and enthusiasm of the spectators to notice the pain in my legs. One of the last live bands I heard was playing the Boss’ “Born to Run” and I remember thinking, “okay, maybe not Norman Rockwell but definitely Nike commercial!” Finishing at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch was picturesque and receiving a medal in its likeness was ohso cool…which is perhaps why I forgot to turn my Garmin off and didn’t even know my results until a full day afterward!
In Connecticut, I ran 3:37:59, was 16th of 128 in my age group, and 446th of 1948 total runners. Don’t tell Cindy I didn’t win…