Matt Pelletier started out conservatively but made a late push to finish second at the Hartford Marathon on Saturday. Matty P ran a 2:21:22, and although it’s slower than he’s run in the past, it’s not bad considering it included a bathroom break and a run in with a tourist taking selflies.
A few months back this was looking like an epic showdown. Chris Zablocki named a fifty pound rock after Matt and threw it around his backyard after runs in order to get ‘farmstrong’ so he could beat Matt. Matt has done a great job of helping to place a bull’s eye on his own back with the way he’s raced in the past. But then Chris went away to med school and Matt was bitten by some type of vermin and missed a couple of weeks. It still ended up being a heck of a showdown between Matt and Eric Macknight.
After the race, Matt gave this interview, which they comically lined up with an ad a ‘runner up’ theme for Lucky For Life.
Did the pit viper attack keep you from winning?
I think I could have run faster than 2:19 had I not been bitten by the pit viper. The 2 leaders went through the 1/2 way point in 1:07. I wouldn’t have been with them at that point, but they slowed a ton in the 2nd half and I might have been able to catch them. That also means I would have had to run the race basically alone, which means I might not have done as well.
Once you got over the ankle swelling, how had training been?
Training after the ankle swelling didn’t go that well. I was trying to force myself to jump right in where I left off, and it didn’t work out at all. I couldn’t run the times I wanted to in workouts, and I felt tired and run down. 2 weeks ago, I said to Ray that I just wanted to get through Hartford and rest up and start over again and focus on Boston. In the middle of August I was very fit and everything was going very well, then I got bit and missed 2 weeks, and couldn’t get going again. I knew going into Hartford that the time would be sub par, but that I could try and be competitive and focus on racing well and not worry about the time.
After starting off a little conservative, at what point in the race did you let loose on the reigns?
I allowed myself to start moving a little quicker after the turnaround at 17 miles. It’s where I started to fall apart last year. From 11-17 miles is a long gradual uphill and there was a headwind. I relaxed on that portion and once we turned around and came back down the other direction, I started to drop the pace.
How did the last few miles play out?
The last few miles played out well until 24 miles. At 21.5 I caught Eric, and at 22, Matt Kiplagat was on the side of the road laying down getting stretched out by a volunteer. I continued to roll on and people said that the leader was dying. After seeing Matt on the ground, I thought maybe if I really started moving I could catch the leader. When I was coming through a water stop around mile 23, there was a woman running in the other direction (like mile 10?) and she was darting from one side of the road to the other taking pictures of herself. As I ran by, she stepped backwards right in front of me. I had to put my hand out to stop her from knocking me over and I basically punched her in the back. That took a lot of the wind out of my sails and I just tried to maintain to the finish without getting caught by Eric.
Macknight was pretty close to you, were you close for most of the race?
Eric and I had similar plans going into the race. We had dinner together the night before and he said that he thought he could get under 2:20 and possibly under 2:18. He said that he planned on running even splits. That had worked for him the year before. I told him that if he was between 1:10-1:11 I would run with him, but if he felt like he could go faster, to leave me behind and go for it. We ran together with a pack behind the 2 leaders (who were out of sight) for the first 3 miles. At mile 4 he and I were running together in 3rd place. I had to stop to pee so I told Eric that I was going to pull off for a second. I threw a surge in and banked some time and pulled off the road. When I jumped back in, I was in 8th. Over the next 4 miles I passed everyone else and eventually caught back up to Eric in 3rd. At 11 miles, I slowed and Eric went for it. He probably put a min. on me by 17 miles. I was content to get 4th and just wanted to maintain the pace I was running. Just before I hit the turnaround, I yelled to Eric who was running back towards me that it was all downhill and he was killing it and to keep it up. Once I turned, I felt better and the downhill and tailwind allowed me to pick it up and try and catch Eric. I passed him at 21.5 miles and was worried that if he could latch on, he could catch me by surprise in the last mile (like Zablocki did in VCM) so I pushed until I ran into the lady taking selfies. I never turned around to see where Eric was. When I crossed the line I was happy to get 2nd, but even happier for Eric who took 4 min. off his PR. I think had Eric decided to race me for 3rd and throw out his time goal, he would have beat me. I always race for a time goal first and place is secondary, but this race was an exception for me. I feel that Eric really made the race.
From what you learned in this race, how do you like your chances of an A standard?
My chances for a shot at the A standard are still there, but with every race that passes and I don’t get it, the window shuts just a little bit more. I’m hoping in Boston to latch onto a group and run even splits. It also depends on the weather, and how fit I can get.
Did you engage in any sort of rock tossing in the back yard to prepare for this? Did you name any kind of object ‘Zablocki’ to help?
At the expo, there was the NEF picture of Chris hanging up at the expo. I thought about getting a picture of me attempting to lift and throw the figure of Zablocki, but with him not here to defend himself, I decided against it. Plus, had he been here, he would be the Hartford Marathon champion, and my picture would have made me look dumber than usual.