Hilary Dionne (BAA) not only won the ING Hartford Marathon, but she also set a new course record. The old course record was 2:43:something (faster than a two-fifty-something), so her 2:40:34 was well under the old mark (full results here). If you weren’t in Hartford on Saturday or near a computer anywhere else that morning, you can watch her post race interview here.

To delve a little further into the nitty gritty of the win, we went directly to the source:

L-R: Jesseman, Dionne, Willard

You won the Cape marathon in 2:48 in less than ideal conditions, then followed that up with a 2:51 in terrible conditions in Boston last April. How excited were you to be on a fast course in better conditions?

After Boston, where I’d hoped to run a 2:45 but couldn’t with the heat, I was looking forward to getting a time I knew I was capable of this fall. I debated which race to do: something big, like NY, or flat and local, like Bay State. Then, I was invited to be part of the New England’s finest program in Hartford and that sealed the deal; it seemed sort of in between. Although I was nervous at first about the cold, coming off of training through such a hot summer, the conditions were really great.

Did you feel like this was something you’ve been capable of for a while, but just didn’t get a chance to fully show yet?

In Spring 2011, I was training for Vermont City and felt like I was in shape to run 2:45ish, but pulled a muscle the week before and decided not to run. It was nothing serious, but was so tight that it wasn’t worth an injury. And then there was Boston…again, not ideal conditions. Yesterday I knew that I could break 2:45 if I ran smart, but 2:40 was more of a stretch goal, so I’m pretty excited!

How did the race unfold and how long were you running alone for?

I had expected to run with last year’s winner, Erica Jessman, from the onset of the race, but she stayed a bit behind me from the beginning. Right after mile 1, the half marathon runners split off from the marathoners, and I was first afraid I’d be alone already — but found a few guys to work with pretty soon. We had a great pack of three and stuck together through about mile 22 but barely spoke! (One of them was Tim Milenkevich from CT, who also ran a 7 min PR). Around mile 16 or 17 we picked up the pace slightly, probably through mile 22, where someone else caught us and one of the guys went with him. I maintained my pace with Tim and really was only “alone” for the last few miles — ahead on the hill, but then passed at the end (need to work on my kick!). At the turnaround at mile 17, Erica looked strong, but was roughly a half mile behind. I knew that I could maintain my lead if I didn’t die in the last few miles.

Was this your first time running Hartford? What’d you think of the course?

This was my first time running Hartford. I’d heard good things about the race overall, and the course , which was fast as I’d hoped, but still had enough hills to consider it challenging… including a tough one at mile 25.

Were you part of the NE Finest program? If so, what effect did that have on your mindset?

Dionne and Tucker, ready to celebrate

NE’s finest treated us really well. Knowing there was some good prize money at stake was an additional motivator — one of the best prize pools within reach for a non-pro runner. I also got to bring a running companion, and my boyfriend (Ross Tucker, who was also on the Dartmouth track team) trained for his first marathon out of post-collegiate “retirement” — and he ran a 2:49, much faster than he was expecting. So, it was a good morning for both of us! And it helped to have someone else thinking about Oct. 13th as much as me every day for the past few months.

How were you able to get right on the set for the post-race interview and look so…relaxed? You look like you recovered impressively fast from the race!

I was surprised myself, having had several post-race interviews where I felt like I was babbling, I think it was adrenaline this time! I felt much better afterwards (today) then I have after previous races. After Cape Cod, I sat on the ground for at least 15 minutes, just to get my legs back. Hopefully this is a sign that my body is adjusting a little more to the distance each time.

What’s next for you?

Boston will definitely be my next marathon; I’m looking forward to enjoying the hometown course more next year. In between, I will try to incorporate a few half marathons, 10 mile races, and possibly a 5K or two indoors this winter to work on my speed…who knows!

Congrats again to Hilary (and Ross). More Hartford Marathon/Half Marathon coverage on the way.

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