HARTFORD, Conn. — Erica Jesseman has only run five marathons, three of them in Hartford. She likes Hartford; twice she has won, and twice she has qualified for the Olympic marathon trials.
Jesseman won the ING Hartford Marathon on Saturday morning in 2 hours, 38 minutes, 13 seconds, a personal best and well under the 2:43 “B” standard qualifying time for the trials (the “A” standard, for which all expenses to the trial are paid, is 2:37).
“I didn’t care what I placed, as long as I got that time,” said Jesseman, 24, of Scarborough, Maine, who ran a personal best by about six minutes. “And I got it.”
So did runner-up Hilary Dionne of Charlestown, Mass., last year’s winner, who finished in 2:39:40.
Third-place finisher Sarah Bard was a mere 13 seconds off, finishing in 2:43:16, but it was her eighth personal record (PR) in eight straight marathons, dating back to 2006.
“I knew I was close,” said Bard, 29, of Somerville, Mass. “It was hard. There’s a hill and you’re going into the wind [at the end]. I was just pushing. I didn’t really know [how close she was] until I came around the curve and I saw the clock at [2:42:]51 and I was like, ‘That’s too far to make in nine seconds.’”
She laughed. There is still plenty of time to qualify for the 2016 trials.
Getachew Melese Asfaw of Ethiopia won the men’s marathon in 2:19:26 in his first visit to Hartford. He ran with Matt Kiplagat of Kenya, who finished second last year, for much of the race, but Kiplagat cramped up and dropped out around mile 22.
Matt Pelletier of West Greenwich, R.I., finished second (2:21:22) and Eric MacKnight of Ballston Lake, N.Y., third (2:22:21).
Approximately 15,000 runners took the streets of Hartford on a perfect day for racing Saturday morning for the marathon, half-marathon, 5K, kids races and marathon relay. There were 2,695 finishers in the marathon, 6,586 finishers in the half-marathon and 1,967 in the 5K, won by Will Sanders of Wethersfield in a race record 14 minutes, 55 seconds. Christa Ferguson of Wallingford won the women’s 5K (18:19).
Jesseman won for the first time in Hartford in 2011, when she qualified for the 2012 Olympic trials. She was one of the youngest qualifiers. Last October, she finished second at Hartford after suffering injuries most of the year.
But this year she has been healthy. She ran a personal record time at Boston in April (2:44) and then again Saturday.
“It was a huge PR,” Jesseman said. “I just felt unbelievably good. It went out pretty quick but I just stayed behind with Hilary. It was so quick, under 6 minute pace, But I kept going and felt stronger and stronger, kept praying, kept pushing. I felt strong until mile 20 or 21 then my legs just felt awful.”
Aregash Abate of Ethiopia and Heidi Westover of Walpole, N.H., pushed the pace early but Westover, who has run a 2:35 marathon, dropped out around mile 8 because of a hamstring issue and Abate fell off the pace eventually. Jesseman took the lead around the halfway point.
Dionne, who has been busy buying a house and starting a new job lately, couldn’t catch Jesseman.
“I just couldn’t really go any faster than I was going,” said Dionne, 28. “I’ve had good workouts but I haven’t raced. I’ve had other things going on. But it was only a few seconds slower than my PR.”
In the men’s race, Pelletier had hoped to be able to run around a 2:16. But then a bug bit him about six weeks ago in the leg, his ankle swelled up and he missed two weeks of training.
“It was not the opportune time to have that happen,” said Pelletier, 34, who finished third last year but ran about two minutes faster. “I ran out of time to train for this. I was in great shape.”
MacKnight was ahead of him, but Pelletier caught him around the 22nd mile, where they saw Kiplagat on the side of the road. Neither could catch Asfaw, who ran a 2:15 two weeks ago to win at the Akron (Ohio) Marathon.
“It was a good race,” Asfaw said through a translator. “I’m very happy.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services