Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Create Your Balance - Making it All Work for You

I started running long distances when my kids were babies.  Finding the time to run all of those miles while juggling the needs of my kids, my home and the responsibilities of my full time job created stress, guilt and continuous imbalance.  Ever had that feeling? 

The Shluger family (still supporting marathon running!)
Some days it all comes together and other days, well, not so much. Creating your balance may require a different mix for you than for your running buddy or for the person you cross the finish line next to.  But, when the running community shares their experiences and pointers on what works for them, we can all benefit.  We want to foster that info-sharing and provide access and tips on relevant topics from leading experts and top-notch sources. 

Coming up later this month, we’ll bring you some words of wisdom from our friends at Runner’s World - a preview of what’s to come in the May 30 panel in Mystic on “The power of positive thinking: finding balance, training smarter, living guilt free.”

Next month, we will be tapping local experts in the field of nutrition to help you find new ways to fuel your body.  Some of the topics we’ll address include:
·       Assessing calorie intake when level of activity fluctuates with training
·       Preparing for a big race – it’s more than just the meal the night before
·       On-the-go, quick nutrition options
·       Race day nutrition
·       Tried and true recipes for power meals

We want to hear from you too!  Together with our partners at United Bank, we want Create Your Balance to address your needs and to share your words of wisdom.  Please follow conversations on Facebook and Twitter @runHMF to learn more.

United Bank is a new HMF partner with headquarters right here in Glastonbury and more than 50 branches throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts. Check out more about the great things they do for their customers and employees here!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

It’s all about the bling

Many runners are serious about their medal collections – we’ve seen custom built displays, walls of honor and even rooms dedicated to showing off their bling.  Whether it’s your first medal ever earned, the mark of a new goal attained, a remembrance of a milestone achieved or just a really cool piece of race swag, medals have reached a new status, signifying more than simply the completion of an event.

2015 Grand Slam Scramble Series Medal
Where it all began
Winners of the Ancient Olympic Games were awarded olive wreaths as prizes.  Medal designs root back the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 but changed in 1900, when most winners received cups or trophies.  At the 1897 inaugural Boston Marathon, all ten finishers were awarded a medal with the Boston Athletic Association’s signature unicorn, similar to the coveted modern-day symbol of the highly sought-after medal.

What used to be reserved to long distance events has now come to be expected with all distance races, presenting a creative, and oftentimes costly, challenge to race organizers. Is an over saturation of medals diminishing the value and high regard of these once exclusive, prized possessions?  Where is the line drawn on what race events provide medals and which do not? 

We often grapple with the decision to offer a medal to the finishers of shorter distance races when run next to longer, more challenging distances.  Does offering race medals to Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon finishers and not providing bling for 10K or 5K finishers risk offending those participants?  We’ve opted to provide all event participants with a relatively sized medal for their Iron Horse finish but understand there’s not one answer that everyone can agree on here. 

2015 Trinity Medal
We have also created special medals to challenge participants with 5K race series – the recent O’race Trinity medal and the newly revealed Riverfront Scramble Series medals.  We want to keep a competitive spirit alive with some unique offerings – the first year of our Trinity Challenge tested that concept and seems to be well-received by the community.

Oftentimes, we are asked if we can provide runners an additional medal to share with an individual they are running for.  Our policy is that each finisher earns one medal, simply stated.  HMF fully supports our runners sharing their passion and hard-earned prize with a deserving friend, family member or designated recipient. Beyond the fact that we cannot accommodate all of these requests (and how does one determine who is more deserving?), the medal is special and hard-earned because it was done so by the participant. Sharing the medal you earn is truly sharing your accomplishment with another.

Tell us what your all-time favorite medal is and why - is it the goal accomplished or the actual bling that makes you love it the most?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Course limits - what it means behind the scenes

As a race director, I am constantly looking for ways to improve what we do for our runners.  Our team strives to support the HMF community by delivering top-notch experiences, taking extra steps to provide safe, challenging, rewarding race events.  When there’s question about a policy, we want to assure you that policies are set with purpose and explain why.

Course limits are a reality of race management, and are relayed throughout our event communications on course pages and in final instructions.  There are many factors - road permits with specific time allotments, local law enforcement staffing, medical team management, SAG staff and event volunteers have to be planned around those limits.

There are a number of reasons why it’s imperative that we remove bibs from runners who decide to stay on the course beyond set limits. When the course is closed, event participation is over.  While we respect a runner’s personal decision to finish a race on their own, we can’t provide support for participants past those limits.

A runner on the course with a race bib signifies event participation, which is particularly concerning to local law enforcement.  Even though those bibs numbers are called in to our race command, local police are not going to track our bib numbers list to ensure we’re following protocol and staying within our event permits for use of the roads.  That seriously jeopardizes the approval of permits for future events.

We work to account for all event participants prior to course closure - taking the bib when a runner is contacted signifies to race command that we have specifically communicated with that runner to ensure they do not need services (medical, food, transport, etc).  We are responsible to make sure they understand we cannot provide services for those that continue to run the route on their own.

It's really not a simple issue in any way.

That said, we certainly understand that runners who finish in any time are proud of their accomplishment and want to show for it. We’ve had requests that bibs be returned to runners who finish on their own after course limits.  While it would be logistically very difficult to provide their same bib/bib number, we can make sure they receive an official bib from the event. The participant needs to contact our office within a week of the event date and request a bib be sent to them, we can make that happen.

We’re working hard to make your event experience memorable, and we ask that you consider there are many factors that go in to race planning and logistics.  If at any time you have questions, just contact us.  We’re happy to share with you how and why decisions are made and open to considering if there’s another way we can do things – sometimes there is and other times there might not be, but we can’t even try if nobody’s talking with us about it!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Frequent Miler Program

As our race calendar has grown through the years, many of you have traveled with HMF across the region, tried different distances and taken on new challenges with us.  We truly appreciate you and the many miles you’ve logged racing with us and want to provide a new way to thank you in 2015.  The new HMF Frequent Miler Program will give you options to use accumulated miles for merchandise, perks and race experiences.

How it Works:
Sign up for the HMF Frequent Miler Program and participate in a minimum of five HMF events in 2015 – you will earn one point for every mile you run with us!  Accumulated points can be used in the Frequent Miler Shop for special merchandise – everything from magnets or hats to technical shirts, jackets and race registrations.  The more HMF miles you run, the more points you earn.  We will tally your mileage through registration data in December 2015 after the Blue Back Mitten Run, points will be awarded for use in the Frequent Miler Shop from December 15, 2015 until June 1, 2016.

The Details:
Participants must register for the program through this link by December 6, 2015 and be a registered participant in at least five HMF events in 2015 to earn the points per mile.

Promotional race entries (giveaways or comp entries provided through HMF or HMF partners) do not count toward event or points per mile credit. 

Race credits are only earned with minimum participation of five HMF events within 2015, points will not carry over to 2016.

Triathlon and Duathlon running miles will also be tallied toward total mileage (bike and swim miles will not be included).

Points are not transferable.

Points can only be used within the Frequent Miler Shop between December 15, 2015 and June 1, 2016; unused points with be forfeited after that time.

Please enter the same exact name to register for all events and to register for the program to ensure points are assigned correctly.

Happy running in 2015, we look forward to seeing you all on race day!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Training for spring races

Training for spring races can be tough this time of year….cabin fever, negative temps, frozen sweat kind of tough.  When breaking 40 degrees is a 10-day weather forecast goal, we all need some serious motivation to start logging outside miles!

It’s time to make a plan for getting back in race-ready shape, especially for those looking to increase mileage or work on a PR this spring.  Don’t know where to start?  Join us for an #askHMF Q&A with experts from Select Physical Therapy to learn more about strengthening exercises, warming up, cool stretches, tips for returning to running after rehab as well as injury prevention and common injuries.

This Friday, 2/27, from noon-1:00 pm, Andrew Miller and Skylar Miers from Select Physical Therapy will be live answering your questions on Twitter.  Send questions for Andrew and Sky anytime to us @runHMF using #askHMF.  

Not on Twitter?  You can leave your questions in comments here or on our Facebook page and we’ll provide Andrew and Sky’s answers there on Friday.  Learn more about our guest experts below.

Training programs are starting March 7 and March 14 for the Mystic Half Marathon and the Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon.  With certified coaches leading groups in Glastonbury and Groton, we have expanded training offerings to provide support, motivation and custom plans to help you successfully bounce back from winter hiatus!

Meet the Experts:

Andrew Miller, DPT, OCS, CEAS
Andrew Miller is a physical therapist at Select Physical Therapy in West Hartford and at their onsite clinic at The Hartford Insurance. He graduated with his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Northeastern University in 2010. He received his Orthopedic Certified Specialist (OCS) and Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist (CEAS) certifications in 2014. Along with his experience in the orthopedic and corporate environment, Andrew was a PT for Temple University athletics while working in Philadelphia. An avid runner, he coaches and performs injury assessments with Fleet Feet Sports in West Hartford, and he has developed a Running Clinic for his West Hartford office. He treats a wide variety of running and sports-related injuries, as well as post-surgical and musculoskeletal conditions. He has completed 6 marathons and road races of many different distances.

Skylar Miers, ATC 
Skylar Miers graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from the University Of Vermont in 2011. She started her career with Select Physical Therapy in August of 2011 as a Coverage Athletic Trainer. In August of 2012 she became the Head Athletic Trainer for Old Saybrook High School contracted through Select Physical Therapy. She also assists the Physical Therapist at the Old Saybrook clinic. As an Athletic Trainer she collaborates with Physicians and Physical Therapists to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. Her goal is to keep all athletes healthy, strong and safe so they can continue to reach their goals.

Skylar oversees Select Physical Therapy’s Sports Injury Hotline and can be reached via e-mail or phone 1-877-662-5633 to answer any questions you may have on common injuries, aches, or pains.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Team HMF 2015

We know you've been waiting to hear about the new members of Team HMF, so without further ado...

Hartford Marathon Foundation Unveils Team HMF 2015

February 13, 2015, Glastonbury, CT – The Hartford Marathon Foundation is pleased to announce the final selection of members for Team HMF in 2015.  This group of 17 women and 12 men represents runners from diverse backgrounds and age groups. They come from throughout the southern New England area and represent a wide range of experiences.  From coaches and personal trainers to youth running supporters and educators, their paths are different but their passion is shared. Whether life-long or novice athletes, the members of Team HMF are excited to inspire and encourage. Many have been motivated by personal challenges to live healthier, be stronger and help others.

In the second year of the Team HMF application process, nearly 100 runners vied for a spot, many with extensive race experiences, a high level of social media and networking activity, as well as involvement in their communities or with fitness organizations. Members will help inspire peers and their communities as ambassadors of HMF's mission to promote health, fitness and enjoyment for participants of all ages and experience levels.  Members will be seen throughout the region racing in Team HMF uniforms, participating in awareness initiatives and sharing perspective on Hartford Marathon Foundation events through their personal experiences.

Team HMF 2015:
Sarah Bourdeau, Milford, CT
Marc Cerrone, Pomfret Center, CT
Matt Cieslowski, Manchester, CT 
Stacey Clark, East Berlin, CT
John Coppola, Middletown, CT
Nichole Donzella, Windsor, CT
Stephanie Gagliardi, Middletown, CT 
Susan Hayes, Newington, CT
Stacey Head, Rocky Hill, CT
Scott Hollister, Glastonbury, CT
Dani Kennedy, Bolton, CT
Wendy Ku, Farmington, CT
Heather Labbe, South Windsor, CT
Tony Labriola, Southbury, CT
Adam Lippencott, Hartford, CT
Marty Maldonado, Unionville, CT
Kimberly Markey, Kensington, CT
Lanham Marks-Hamilton, Glastonbury, CT
Elizabeth Mashiak, Middletown, CT
Kristina Miner, Newington, CT
Katie Ouellette, New Britain, CT
Diane Perry, Bloomfield, CT 
Eric Pouliot, Sturbridge, MA
Elanna Rubenstein, Bristol, CT 
Susan Rubenstein, Simsbury, CT
Dwayne Taylor, Windsor, CT
Christopher M. Trotta, Longmeadow, MA
Kevin Vallez, Ellington, CT 
Jesse Wanzer, Glastonbury, CT
HMF FitKids Ambassador: Kari Craddock, Trumbull, CT

“We are truly excited to have such a well-rounded, diverse and inspiring team of athletes to represent the Hartford Marathon Foundation at race events and in communities across the area this year,” said Beth Shluger, CEO and Executive Director of the Hartford Marathon Foundation. “The incredible response we received to the call for Team HMF submissions is a testament to the local running community’s passion and enthusiasm.  With so many deserving candidates, we only wish we could expand the team further.”

New to the team this year is the Team HMF FitKids Ambassador position. The Ambassador will serve as the face of HMF FitKids, a program that allows children aged 2-11 to compete in age-appropriate race distances and earn their own medals at multiple HMF events. The program also includes HMF FitKids in School, a five-week school-based initiative in which students run together to accumulate 12 miles or 25 miles. In early October, they come together with students around Connecticut for the culminating “Final Mile Event” to complete their marathon or half marathon distance.

Team HMF members will train and race in Team HMF apparel, post updates and photos through social media channels, participate in race-day initiatives and other group activities and compete in races throughout the region. 

About the Hartford Marathon Foundation
The Hartford Marathon Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit organization founded in 1994 to create and manage fitness events that inspire people to be healthy and fit. Located in Glastonbury, Connecticut, the Hartford Marathon Foundation organizes nearly 42 annual athletic events, including the NU Hartford Marathon, and 25 training programs. For more information, , follow us at or on Twitter @runHMF

Friday, January 30, 2015

Our Miracle Runner

When we say that we prioritize the safety of our runners - that we feel investing to provide professionally trained medical support for our athletes is critical - people often brush it off, nobody thinks it will apply to them.  This crucial behind-the-scenes coordination, and expense, is not one we will compromise to lower registration fees.  It is just too important.

Just how important is it?  I’d like to let Sharon Reiner tell you in her words about her experience at the O’Niantic 5K finish line last year.  Sharon, who’s been running for a decade and was well trained and working on speed for the March 15 event, had a typical pre-race morning – “nothing unusual”…
“The race started and I was running according to my plan; hit 8:30 at the mile 1 marker; hit around 17 minutes at the mile 2 marker, high fived running buddies when we crossed paths. Near the end of the race, I picked out a female runner in front of me to pass - which I did. I finished really strong and stomped my feet at the finish on the timing pad, glanced up at the time to see 26:16, which I felt good about.  I walked in the chute thinking about meeting up with running buddies for corned beef sandwiches and was reaching for a water bottle, and then everything went white.

I woke up in an ambulance with my running clothes getting cut off (and not in a fun “50 Shades of Grey” way), and was violently nauseated and embarrassed about being nauseous.  I was totally lucid and, strangely enough, unafraid.  I was taken to the Lawrence + Memorial Hospital Emergency Room, and was able to answer all the questions:  my name, date, what was I doing, etc.  Race Director Beth Shluger also was there, completely calm and stayed until my husband arrived.  He was not so calm.  My good friends Joanne and Peter Goode also showed up in the ER as my husband had the presence of mind to call them to get my car home from the race.

Sharon and her son Ben in the ICU
After the hospital spent all afternoon trying to kill me, they decided to keep me overnight. My husband insisted on a CAT scan of the head on the way up to my room.  As a result, the physician ran up five flights of stairs quite shaken to announce that I had an active subarachnoid bleed from an undiagnosed aneurysm - did I want to go to Yale or Hartford Hospital?  Hartford Hospital was contacted and they sent Lifestar to get me.

Being Catholic, and figuring out my day was not going according to plan, I asked for a priest to administer the sacrament of the sick in case I saw St. Peter later that day.  I wanted to be reassured that he had my name in the book.  The hospital rounded up a minister for me to say a blessing, and my friend Joanne held my hand until Life Star took me away. I arrived at Hartford Hospital Neuroscience/Neurotrauma ICU, where they determined I was stable enough to wait until morning for the surgery so the surgeon and staff would be fresh.

Sharon and her friend Marcy in the ICU

In the morning after kissing my husband and son (who had driven down from Boston at 2am), I again tried for a Catholic priest.  Hartford Hospital sent me a blonde, dread-locked rabbi who sang a blessing for me to send me off to surgery.  Being that Jesus was a good Jewish boy, I figured the Jewish blessing couldn’t hurt.

I woke up later Sunday after surgery and was told that the aneurysm had been successfully repaired but I would be in the neuro ICU for at least 14 days.  Blood on the brain is extremely toxic to the body, so I had 14 days of very aggressive medical intervention to position me for a successful recovery.

For the first two days, the nursing staff woke me up every hour to check me and ask me questions.  I received a variety of injections, intravenous medications and oral medications every four hours around the clock for 14 days.  I had IV’s in both arms.  The nursing care in the neuro ICU at Hartford Hospital ranged from excellent to fantastic.  All the staff from the registered nurses and therapists to patient care assistants were the most talented, committed professionals I have ever seen.

Rentschler Airfield 5K-first race back
Throughout all this, I was unafraid, which I attribute to God’s mercy and grace.  I finally did get a Catholic priest to administer the anointing of the sick on Monday night; 2 days after my brain blew up.  I mentioned to friends a line from the movie Shawshank Redemption – “You have a choice, get busy living or get busy dying” and I was real busy living.  But it was difficult, two times in the ICU I was so sick from the after-effects of the aneurysm that I could have easily put my head back on the pillow and breathed out my last breath.  Dying was easy, living was hard

I was discharged March 30th with no restrictions. I was so happy to come home to my own bed, bathroom, and SHOWER!  My friend Joanne had a huge “Welcome Home” balloon bouquet tied to my lamppost, and had planted pansies in all my front planters. 

That first week at home I was very weak and could have chosen to remain an invalid in bed forever and become ‘Poor Sharon”.  I chose to live and had a friend drive me to the office the second day to reassure the staff, and my husband, that I would be back.  I worked 2 days that first week; a couple more the following week; and was back full time the 3rd week.  My friends, families and co-workers sent enough meals over so I didn’t have to make dinner for over a month.

I was very weak having lost all my muscle tone from being bed-bound, with IVs going in both arms and oxygen meters on my fingers.  I started gaining my strength by walking to the mailbox one day; then from my driveway to a neighbor’s driveway.  I did a little more every day until I could walk 3 miles by the end of April.  Then I started running a couple of light poles, and could run 3 miles by the end of May. I ran my first race at what else, an HMF event, the Rentschler Airfield 5K on July 17th, and placed second in my age group.

Sharon and Ben, Manchester Road Race 2014

I could not get medical clearance to run in the NU Hartford Marathon so I chose to volunteer out in South Windsor, since I remembered that being kind of desolate where I would have wanted some encouragement.  I was stationed out by mile 13.3 at 7am, in the rain, until maybe 2pm.  And I had the best time – it was fabulous, I wore a tiara, had a cowbell and a flag to direct and encourage runners

I’m alive because I was at a Hartford Marathon Foundation racing event and because of the excellent care I received at Hartford Hospital.  That aneurysm was destined to rupture at 10:15 am on March 15th, and going down at an HMF finish line, where there is always a medical team and ambulance on standby, saved my life.  I didn’t breathe for 4 minutes, so if this had happened anywhere else I would be dead.  And remember how I mentioned that I passed a runner at the finish? That runner was an EMT who went down with me and started providing CPR.

So by God’s grace and mercy, I had a life threatening event in a venue where all the lifesaving mechanisms where in place.  And HMF President Beth Shluger’s presence in the ER was a positive, calming, professional presence that contributed to my survival.

I was always a very much in-the-moment person; so I have continued in that and try to remain focused on the present.  Every day is a gift to me, and I am profoundly grateful for every day. Time is my most precious commodity.  I don’t strain my brain trying to analyze why I survived, but rather am profoundly grateful for every day and choose to make the most out of every day…and run in as many races as time, money and my husband will allow.

I achieved a personal record at the Ghost Run Half Marathon in Hebron in November, and have placed in my age group at several races.  I joined the Run 169 Towns Society, where the members share the personal goal of running a race in all of Connecticut’s 169 Towns, and I have had a blast running with them.  Since joining, I have run races in Mansfield, Middletown, Guilford, Stratford, Bethlehem, West Haven, Cornwall, Sterling, Rocky Hill,  Norwich, and Norfolk, to name a few. I have an aggressive race calendar set up for 2015 and will be chasing my Boston Qualifying time to run Boston in 2017. Cause, baby, we were born to run…”