By Jim Dandeneau
Matt Pelletier, 35, pulled away from Gesera Genemo, a native of Ethiopia after the 25th mile to win the 2014 edition of the NU Hartford Marathon in a time of 2:17:02. Pelletier, a physical education and health teacher in the Warwick, RI school system, who now resides in Exeter, RI, competing in his 3rd Hartford Marathon race, established a new personal best, eclipsing the 2:17:17 he ran while competing in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon held in New York City.
Commented New England’s fastest marathoner in 2014: “The conditions were challenging with the rain…I was in a distant 3rd/4th place running with Tekeste Nurelign until about 8 miles…Gesero Genema and Tilahun Manesho were the early front runners and they had about 30 seconds on us until we caught up around the 13.1 mile mark (passed in 1:07:30). After running together for a few more miles Tekeste fell off along with Tilahun around the 16 mile mark….Gesero and I were together and were trying to shake each other however no one was able to get away until I made a move around 41K when I sprinted going over the overpass. I sprinted as fast as I could as I did not want to leave it to the final straightaway….Once I crested it, I gave it all I had going down the other side. He never came with me but I didn’t know that. I sprinted all the way to the line not knowing that he was not there.”
Pelletier, who had run 2:18:00 just 48 days earlier while on his honeymoon in Iceland, was able to get back to full training quickly. “It’s the first time we (he and coach Ray Nelson) ever tried to do something like that. We did 2 easy weeks post Iceland of just mileage (40, 88) then 3 really intense weeks of 114, 110, 120 with some hard workouts. The weather really helped…I felt great after Iceland. No fatigue at all…After the 3 hard weeks we came down to 93 with just one workout and the taper week which started out with an easy workout (3 miles at marathon race pace)…. I was shooting for 2:15 and I think I would have been a lot closer had the weather in this race been better and I not missed all my bottles. I took no fluids or GU until I was able to get ½ GU at mile 24. I was soaked from the start and couldn’t warm up. I started out with a long sleeve however handed it to Sam Alexander (who was on the course) when it got too heavy. “ explained the new champion who collected $6000.00 for his effort as part of New England’s Finest Athlete program. “Next up for me are some small races in November and then training for the Vermont City Marathon in May. I don’t dream about the Olympic Trials that much I’ve been there before so it’s lost the feeling of being the “ultimate goal” race. My lifetime goal was to make the Trials back in 2008. Once I did that, my next year was pretty bad. It was hard to get back into training mode after reaching that goal. My goal for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials is going to be to not finish last. The field is going to be significantly faster than in ’08 with the tougher qualifying standards”.
Genemo, in finishing 24 seconds behind Pelletier, collected $3000. while ultra-marathoner extraordinaire Michael Wardian, 40, moved up throughout the race finishing in 2:25:57, one of the top Masters (over 40) times nationally in 2014. Men’s age group winners included Jeff Walker in the 50-54 division (2:57:32) Anthony Uzwiak 55-59 (2:57:45) Greg Trojanowski 60-64 (3:20:07) Ron Wightman 65-69 (3:35:10) David Bruce 70-74 (4:39:15) and Nick Keeling 75-79 (4:27:48).
In the men’s Half Marathon, the top three all had the same time: 1:05:15. But it was Harbert Okuti, a former Iona College star, who got the win by out-dueling both Dereje Deme & Dirma Gebre with a strong final push to pick up the top cash prize. Other notable performances were Jonas Hampton (1:05:27) and Tyler Andrews (1:05:47), who both ran very solid in finishing 4th and 5th, respectively.
Women’s coverage to come soon.