Hartford Half Marathon Recap

011b90b377ac638b23b4d57ec3a722d7f22b1ef42a_00001Normally I am so excited to write my race recaps and share my experienced with you guys. But this time?

Not so much.

Well, that’s not necessarily true. I loved so many things about the NU Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon — the course, the organization, the eco-friendliness, the shirt and medal, the post-race snacks.

What I didn’t love was my performance, which was my worst to date.

But I’m jumping ahead here. (And I apologize in advance for the boo-hoo, woe-is-me recap post, but I also want to be truthful and authentic about how I felt that day.)

On Friday night, my friend L and I met up at our hotel in Manchester, Conn., just 15 minutes outside of Hartford. We immediately changed into our running clothes (and I grabbed a handful of tissues — I’d been battling a nasty cold for about a week now … think wheezing, coughing, stuffy nose, ugh) to head downtown to the One Mile Fun Run.

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We decided right off the bat that we were going to take it easy, so we enjoyed our run through downtown Hartford, crossing the finish line … at 8:10. Really?! We were shocked, since we weren’t really trying. Turns out we ended up placing 5th and 6th in our age group.

Well, if that’a not cause for a celebratory Harpoon IPA, I don’t know what is.

Hartford Half One Miler

But the lovely fall weather was only temporary, because as much as we were ignoring the doom-and-gloom forecast the next morning (and saying prayers for sun before going to bed), we woke up to rain and temps in the 40s.

Boo.

I went back and forth on what to wear, eventually deciding on wicking ensemble of Athleta capris, an Under Armour tank, my Tufts 10K long-sleeved tech shirt, and — a must in the rain — an Under Armour hat. Oh, and plenty of Aquaphor and Body Glide.

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We chomped on our bagels and hotel room coffee (blecch) and cruised into downtown Hartford, parking the car in one of the nearby surface lots. I don’t think either of us were ready to get out of the car, but eventually we put on our awesome Coleman parkas that we’d picked up at Target the day before, and braved the elements with all the other runners making their way to the start line.

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It took us a little while to figure out where we were going, and by the time we found the porta potty lines, they were crazy long … and with 15 minutes to go. We decided to take our chances, and I literally emerged with 5 minutes until the start. Suddenly, I realized there was no way I was going to find and situate myself with the 1:55 pace group, like I was hoping to.

We eventually found where the runners were lined up and saw a massive sea of bodies — not surprising since the marathon and half marathon runners started together. The announcer said they were getting ready to start in 30 seconds, so I ditched my parka, L and I hopped a security fence and joined the thousands of other runners somewhere near the beginning (maybe? it was kind of hard to tell) and then we were off.

It was like deja vu of my first half marathon. Poor planning. No time to stretch. No time to mentally prepare myself. And I never felt comfortable for one single stride of those 13.1 miles.

I fumbled with my Garmin (the satellite had timed out) and my iPhone and headphones as I was crossing the start line. As a result of all the craziness, the first half mile or so was kind of a blur. But then everything caught up with me, and whether it was the weather, my cold, the fact I’d run a half marathon two weeks earlier, or simply that I was having an off day in crappy weather, all I know is that my legs felt like lead, I had a hard time breathing (thanks to my cold, which I still have) and I just felt miserable.

I won’t go into the rest of the gory details of the rest of race itself, or a mile-by-mile breakdown, other than to say I had to dig waaaaay deep to finish this race. And that I almost cried in relief (and came pretty close to passing out) when I finally crossed that finish line, nearly nine minutes after my goal time … and five minutes slower than my slowest half marathon time until that point.

But you know what? I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard for a medal.

Don’t let the smile fool you …

I’m trying not to get too down on myself, or feel disappointed, even though in the back of my head, I can’t help but feel I kind of threw in the towel on this one. But to look on the positive side, even with my subpar performance, I still finished in the middle of the pack in the overall standings (3,315 out of 5,906), female runners (1,607 out of 3,492) and my 35-39 age group (239 out of 527).

And I finished two half marathons in two weeks … something I would have never, ever believed was possible two or three years ago.

By the time the race finished, it was seriously raining and even with the post-race foil wrapped around me, we were shivering. We headed first to the food tent where we were treated with the best post-race (and post-rainy race) food options ever: grilled cheese, apple crisp, tomato soup. A-ma-zing.

Our next stop was the beer tent, where we gulped down the post-race beer as fast as we could, then sloshed through the mud and puddles the few blocks to my car, where we dried off with towels we’d smuggled from the hotel and waited for our wrinkly fingers to return to normal.

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And let me just tell you — the hot shower back at the hotel might go down as one of the most incredible hot showers ever. Seriously. I did not want to get out.

But in all seriousness, I think this experience was actually quite enlightening in many ways, and I came to a few important realizations, which I’ll share in a separate post later this week. But I do want to touch upon the actual NU Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon itself, particularly some aspects that made it a pretty awesome race, even with the inclement weather:

  • Loved the full week of activities, which I highlighted here last week
  • I know the Hartford race bills itself as the “greenest race” in the country, and it’s true! From the water fountains  to the reusable (and full) water bottle that greeted you at the finish line to the compost pile and race volunteer helping you sort out your garbage, it was clear that the race organizers had made sustainability a key priority, something I respect and appreciate. 01ab7267b3d3125b054964437e280449f355990961
  • Best. Post. Race. Food. Never before has a grilled cheese, tomato soup, and apple crisp tasted as heavenly as it did after running 13.1 miles in the cold, pouring rain.
  • And Best. Race. Shirt. Gotta love a long-sleeved tech shirt in a flattering cut. And then there’s the medal, one of my new favorites. 011b90b377ac638b23b4d57ec3a722d7f22b1ef42a_00001
  • Great race signage, super helpful volunteers, and the event itself was like a well-oiled machine — so organized, which was quite a feat, considering the weather they had to deal with.
  • Free post-race beer always gets a thumbs up in my book. 01d36ad3b9f895ea9c603d6bdb54bcc4492bd27040
  • The course, from what I could tell in the rain, seemed pretty overall, but was definitely hillier than I’d expected.
  • Although the marathon and half marathon started together (splitting just after that first mile) , it didn’t feel as crowded or congested once the race actually started as I would have thought.

So was this the sub-2:00 race I was hoping for? No freaking way. Not even close. Was I surprised by how tired and just blah I felt? Yes. Did I indulge in a bit of a pity party afterward? Yes, as those of you who follow me on social media know. Was I cursing the weather gods when I woke up the next morning to clear and sunny skies? Hell yes. But did I realize I’ve been pretty lucky to date in terms of race day weather? Yep. And am I working on trying to let it go and move on? You bet, although it’s kinda hard.

But, here’s the million dollar question: Would I run the Hartford Half Marathon again? Maybe, which has more to do with me than the race itself. And would I recommend it to others? Absolutely.

Have you ever run a race in less-than-ideal elements, or have a race go completely opposite of how you expected it to go? How do you let it go and move on?

Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary race bib in exchange for promoting the race and for my review, but all opinions are my own.