Friday, December 29, 2023

Behind the curtain with HMF staff

HMF staff members, October 2023
A new year of events is just about upon us!  As much as we appreciate a little break from race season in the winter, the HMF staff is busy in behind-the-scenes mode. A great amount of detail goes into race planning for months in advance, and the range of variables to assess might surprise you!  

Here are some thoughts from a few of our staff that might bring you a little insight on what compels us, and hopefully provide a peek at how much care we put into your event experiences with us. *For the record, nobody on staff actually gets to run the Eversource Hartford Marathon on race day!

Matt Anderson, Vice President:
What people think I do: run the race. What I actually do: wish I could run the race.

The short answer is that I do anything and everything needed to make sure events are successful and safe. Pop tents, put out signs, assemble the start and finish, work the audio equipment, instruct volunteers, check in with police and medical personnel, answer athlete questions, hand out water, set the course, address traffic issues, park cars and most importantly, drink lots of coffee!

Favorite race: Most our participants are from Connecticut, so they may not have ventured up to Western Mass for a run or bike ride before, in which case they’ve never experienced the Norwottuck Rail Trail.  It’s an absolutely amazing stretch of trail, especially in the fall!  It’s paved, peaceful and offers panoramic views of the Seven Sisters Mountain Range and local farms before being capped off with a picturesque crossing of the Connecticut River on the iconic Northampton Lattice Truss Bridge. Personally, I look forward to “having to” course check the Western Mass 10 every year!

Genevieve Lattimer, Strategic Partnership Administrator:
People don’t realize that our team works all year long in planning for the calendar of events.  I often get asked, “So what do you do now that [event] is over?” To be honest, the day after any event is over, we start looking ahead to the next event date, while at the same time discussing what we can improve upon next year for the event that just happened.

On race day at the Eversource Hartford Marathon, the area I manage is adjacent to the finish line.  I’m always most inspired by the runners finishing their full marathon race during the later hours of the day.  To see these athletes crossing the finish line after a full day of running, knowing the effort that they have put in each step of the way, is always most rewarding, and I share the overwhelming emotion of their accomplishment

Andris Briga, Operations Manager:
What people think I do: pick things up and put them down
What I actually do: pick things up and put them down

I’m an active trail runner who was born and raised in Hebron, Connecticut. So this Operations Manager is highly stoked to present the Summer Solstice Trail Run on the trails of my hometown in Gay City State Park. It is an opportunity to share my passion for this trail network with my friends and fam. Hot take: this is a highly underrated trail event that has something for all skill levels of trail runner.

Nancy Loughlin, Volunteer Manager
It is so much fun to be surrounded by festive happy runners/walkers dressed up at our O’races and holiday events.  The fun and spirit of it all continues with the music and post-race party, we happily get carried away by it!

I am so proud of how the Middletown 10K & 5K is a major fundraiser for Gilead as well as am engaging participation event for Gilead supporters.  They do such wonderful work and to help them support themselves financially and to come together as a group is a great feeling. We all need more happy days! I also feel that our other events, albeit on a smaller scale, are similar forces for good for the local communities, partner charities and our participants.

Deb Morton, Manager of Strategic Partnerships:
As a runner, both my first half marathon (ING Hartford Half Marathon) and my first full (Eversource Hartford Marathon) were both with HMF and great experiences!
 In my first year working at HMF, I was surprised by the many facets of execution at the (very wet) Niantic Bay Triathlon, including managing so many boats and people in the water to keep everyone safe. Most people would probably be surprised to find me doing body marking or holding the winner’s tape at an event. 
Ellen Smith, Program Manager:
Directing people during the pre-race rush of getting race bibs, finding safety pins, locating the port-a-potties and answering questions - runners approach me because they think I look like I know the answers to their questions! (editor’s note – look for someone in a Race Staff shirt/jacket with a radio to get your questions answered, but know most questions are addressed on the event Web pages too).

Three events, all associated with Veteran’s Day, stand out for me. The Freedom Run ran through downtown Hartford and then moved to the Hartford Riverfront Boathouse. In 2023, the inaugural Husky Run and Ruck was held at UConn in Storrs to support scholarships for military and veteran students and honor Kyle Milliken, a Navy SEAL and UConn track and field athlete who was killed in action. Each of these races made me proud to be a part of the Hartford Marathon Foundation.
Josh Miller, President:
Not sure what people think I do on race day, but I make sure all participants that started the race are accounted for at the end (editor’s note: among many, many other responsibilities to keep things running safely and smoothly!).

Through my many years of memories and race moments, last year’s Rocky Neck event really stands out to me – it turned into over 3” of rain falling throughout the morning. Puddles were a half a foot deep. Small streams became rivers. And hundreds of HARDY runners and incredibly supportive volunteers had an amazing and memorable day!

It’s hard not to also share some additional thoughts on the Eversource Hartford Marathon, which is a yearlong labor of love for our staff:

Working my first marathon, the 2023 Eversource Hartford Marathon, is no doubt my personal highlight. I feel so much energy going into Hartford area programming and specifically fitness programming. I take pride being part of the team that brings this event to Hartford and it was incredible to see the enthusiasm of all those that take part, participants and spectators alike. I am vibing with the local fitness community and how they contribute to this event and the local fitness culture at large. Special local community shoutouts: 86GO and Red Rock Tavern, Traprock Run Club, Fleet Feet WeHa and everyone else I run with. 2024, let’s go even bigger!

It’s hard not to recognize the Eversource Hartford Marathon & Half Marathon. Standing at the start line every year, you can’t help but feel the power of the day, the anticipation of the runners, and appreciate the size, scale and planning that went into making the event possible.  It is truly a proud day, not just for the participants who reach their goals at the finish line, but for the entire state of Connecticut.

I just love how this event is such a force for good for the Hartford region.  Volunteers from the full spectrum of community groups come out to support the event (Girl Scouts, high school groups, collegiate groups, corporations, civic organizations).  It is a major source of fundraising for so many charity groups and they too run the gamut from small local, seedling groups to national organizations.  A morning race in downtown Hartford delivers support to local businesses over the weekend.  The participants, who range from elite marathoners to casual 5K walkers, each experience a happy, memorable day.  In a world with constant sad, distressing news cycles, it is so meaningful to have a positive event for so many.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

2024 Race Schedule + NEW Challenges!

As we finish out another busy year, we look ahead to what new goals, favorite finish lines and unique new opportunities for races and event experiences we can bring to the community in 2024.  

While we understand not everyone is quite ready to commit to race plans for next year, we do want to encourage and motivate to set your sights early, with added peace of mind provided by our deferral policy (for any reason up to 14 days before an event), and optional Refundable Registration available for purchase. Reminder - early pricing available when we open registration on January 1 is the lowest available for any race we offer, and pricing scales as event dates near. 

You’ll see many repeat event favorites around the same weekends they have historically been, with the big exception of the Eversource Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon which is being bumped by a week to Saturday, October 19, to accommodate the Jewish high holiday the weekend before. 

We’re adding some new distances and race experience opportunities to entice newbies to join us or to try a different venue, and repeat participants to consider changing up their tradition. Of note: 

March 17 – celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a slightly earlier start time to accommodate other festivities and adding a 10K distance to the O’Hartford 5K, presented by Trinity Health Of New England Orthopedics 

April 21 – A beautiful venue opened up for options to pick your own adventure at the Rocky Neck Runfest, with a tactical trail 5K, a road 5K, the solo 30K challenge rotating trail and road courses and the signature 3-person relay 

Race series offer the opportunity to parlay one awesome race experience to other events to inspire longer-term goals rewarded with commemorative medals - especially great for those that enjoy the satisfaction of earning a beautiful, blingy medal to celebrate their efforts. 

The 4-race Lucky Challenge is a St. Paddy’s themed blast, but we hear you that sometimes life can get in the way of a good time running back-to-back 5Ks, on back-to-back weekends! Enter the new single weekend offering, a mini challenge that delivers one beautiful blingy part of the Lucky Challenge 2-part finisher medal. Choose either the first weekend (O’Shenanigans 5K and Courthouse O’Putnam 5K) or the second weekend (O’Niantic 5K and either the 5K or 10K at O’Hartford) and you’re in on the new Li’l Lucky, earning a sweet medal to show for it. 

Outside of the March series, we work to pair challenge events with those that compliment within a time-frame, a type of race or around locations. We are excited about a new effort this year to offer a challenge that welcomes back-of-pack runners and walkers. The Spring Hustle delivers 5K races with ample windows that ensure full-fledged finish line celebrations with post-race festivities in high gear for 60+ minute finishers. 

The CT Double is a classic repeat challenge for those with full marathon goals. Start out with the UConn Health Half Marathon in June and lead through training for the Eversource Hartford Marathon in October. Another repeat is the popular Shoreline Challenge, offering the best of scenic courses along the shore and at the beach in Mystic, New London and Westerly, RI. On a related theme, the new River Run Challenge mixes 10K and 5K options to hit three running destinations in April, June and August, along the Farmington River in Collinsville, at the Riverfront in Hartford and by the Cove in Old Wethersfield.

Before you ask about the epic RiMaConn Relay adventure, know that we won’t be bringing it back in 2024 as we work on developing another unique new concept to introduce. Don’t necessarily count it out forever, revival races are a serious consideration! 

We look forward to introducing a few new offerings as we get into the new year and will continue to provide great resources, information and training guides through the Support Hub to get you ready for whatever is next. In the meantime, check back on January 1, 2024, to get that race calendar going!