Sunday, October 14, 2007

Memories of Hartford: One Year Later

One year ago today, on a perfect autumn morning in Hartford CT, I ran my second marathon at a time of 3:11:33. Before I allow myself to get too swept up in the preparation for this year’s marathon, I would like to take a moment to commemorate the one year anniversary of my best 26.2 mile run to date by taking you with me on a little trip back in time. Welcome to my world one year ago...

Hartford Marathon logo
The date is October 14, 2006. It’s 4:30 AM, and I’m grabbing the car keys, about to head out the door to taste the first breath of race morning air. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, partly because of pre-race jitters, but mostly because RB (my friend aka race weekend chauffeur) and I stayed a little too late at Foxwoods the night before and had trouble finding the hotel once we got back to Hartford. Still, I wasn’t too worried because I knew it’s normal not to get good sleep the night before a marathon anyway. So after one last look at RB, which was still sound asleep, and a final check of my race bag, I opened the door and unleashed myself onto the world.

And oh my, was it a cold morning! Temps were in the upper 30s, with an occasional northwesterly breeze that made it feel much colder. During the 30 minute drive-and-walk over to the start, I was debating whether to run in a long-sleeve tech shirt and thin sweat pants or ditch the clothes and run in a singlet and shorts like I had planned. It was a tough decision for me because I’m such a wuss when it comes to running in the cold, and always seems to overdress for the occasion (both in running and in general!). Eventually, I made an executive compromise to keep the long-sleeve tech but ditch the pants. By the time I arrived at the start, dawn gave way to a bright sunny day, and I felt a bit better about my decision. After a short warmup and a last minute portapotty run, I found the starting line, scooted my way close to the front, and was ready to roll.

I didn’t have any set expectations going into that race. Since it was only my second marathon and because of various scheduling conflicts was able only to go through an abbreviated 12 week training plan, with only one 18 miler and one 20 miler prior to race day, I was hoping only to run well and improve on my time. So when the horn went off, and I start running alongside the elites, I told myself to run comfortably and find a good pace. I tried hard not to look at my watch much during the beginning, but instead lifted my head to take in the multicolored fall foliage and beautiful Victorian homes all around me. Coming from a big metropolis like NY, where the increasing numbers of towering skyscrapers often threaten to hide the skies away from its residents, I found the picturesque small town scenery thoroughly exhilarating. The flat early course, small crowds and open roads made it feel more like an extended city tour than an actual race. Perhaps the lack of emphasis on pace and time helped me to run fast and relaxed. I was thoroughly surprised when I crossed the half-way marker at 1:31:05, which at the time was faster than any half-marathon I had ever completed.

Unfortunately, the second half of the course, especially the last 10K, ran through the hilly part of town. Unlike the previous 20 miles, which was, for the most part, pancake flat, this last section was full of ups-and-downs, twists-and-turns. I slowed my pace somewhat to compensate, hoping with each turn, there would be some reprieve. No suck luck. I eventually hit the wall at around mile 22, and allowed myself to take a walk break. At this point, after fighting through the hills, I was still averaging better than a 7:05 min/mile pace. So I planned to rest for a min or two before I took off for the finish. Big mistake. All the muscles of my lower leg screamed in pain as soon as I started walking. So even as I watched runner after runner streaking past me, shouting words of encouragement as they passed me by, I wasn’t able to do more than walk/jog the last two miles to the finish. By the time I cross the finished line, I saw that I had missed qualifying for Boston by 33 seconds. I was only a little ticked tough, more for fear of what my friends would think and tease me about afterwards then for how I felt about my running. Although few would believe me, I was honestly more proud of the 15 minute improvement (over my 1st marathon finish) than I was saddened by the 33 seconds of tardiness. The way I saw it, I did not come to Hartford hoping to BQ, so to come close was more motivating than disappointing. [Actually, in a strange twist of fate, I’m now so glad I didn’t make up the 33 seconds, because otherwise, I most likely would still be stuck in the Northeastern blizzard that was Boston ’08!]

So, as I sit here, one year removed, I can say I had a great run at the Hartford marathon that morning, and have no regrets. Besides the wonderful people I got to meet, the beautiful scenery I got to see, and the marvelous running weather I got to experience, I also learned a lot about myself as a runner during that race. For that, Hartford ’06 will always be special to me.

Thanks for coming with me on my little journey back in time. Hope you enjoyed your stay.

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