Ritchie Meets Goal, Sets Hartford Half-Marathon Record

Tim Ritchie's goal was to break the course record at the half-marathon at the Eversource Hartford Marathon Saturday.

The record, 1:03:36, was set in 1999 by Benedict Akoi.

Ritchie shattered it by almost a minute, winning the 13.1-mile race in 1:02:41.

"I wanted to come out here and leave everything out on the course," said Ritchie, 30. "I wanted to go out hard and see if I could hold it. I got a lot of support from my family.

"The record was definitely on my mind. I wanted to kind of highlight where New England distance running is right now. This event really showcases the talent in New England, so I wanted to go out and represent my home of New Haven, hometown of Worcester and my adopted home in Boston."

Ritchie will run the California International Marathon, the U.S. marathon championship, in December. His half-marathon personal best is 1:01:23.

"That was at Philly, which is like a conveyor belt," Ritchie said. "This course makes you work every step. It's rolling and there are a few steep sections. My mile splits were all over the place.

"You have to run with the course vs. against the course. I was pleased to be under 1:03 on a course like this. I haven't run that fast since [Philadelphia]. This was a big step in the right direction for me."

Grace Kahura of Boulder, Colo., who won the half-marathon last year, held off a hard-charging Kaitlin Goodman to win the women's title again in 1:14:41. Goodman finished one second behind. Former Hartford Marathon winner Hilary Dionne was third (1:15:54).

"The girl who finished second, she pushed all the way," Kahura said. "I had a foot which was bothering me, and I was just being careful. I wanted to go with how the race is, and I was not going to do any aggressive moves. The last three miles, I wanted to get to the finish.

"It was so good. I'm so glad I came."

A Tough Day

BJ Williams cried at the finish line.

Williams, of Leicester, Mass., pushed an empty wheelchair with Jackie Gustafson's picture and a Red Sox blanket in it. Gustafson, who had cerebral palsy and was nonverbal, was his running partner with Team Hoyt New England, and the two had run 15 races together the last two years, including the Fenway Park Marathon in September. But Gustafson, 17, died unexpectedly on Sept. 30 due to complications from pneumonia. She was supposed to compete in Hartford with Williams.

"I feel like it still hasn't hit me yet," said Williams, who finished the half-marathon in 1:39:41. "My big thing with her was whenever we hit the hills, I was like, 'Jackie, this sucks.' And she'd laugh. We'd hit a bump, she'd start giggling, throw her hands in the air. I'd be like, 'Oh yeah, fun for you?' I was still talking to her today the whole way. People thought I was nuts.

"It'll never be the same. It won't."

50 In 50 Times Two

There were a few runners who completed their 50th marathon in 50 states Saturday at Hartford. Gordon Bennett of Shelton did that seven years ago. Saturday, he completed his second tour of the country, finishing his 50th state marathon for the second time, and running his 150th overall marathon in 3:44:48. "I'm just glad nothing went wrong," said Bennett, 57, of his 17-year journey through 100 marathons, two in each state. "You have to plan all the states, and nothing can go wrong with the travel, and you can't get injured or anything. It takes a lot of luck and a lot of work." ... Nick Migani of Higganum, who won the 5K in 15:40 Saturday, is on his way back. "I've been in the 15:29-15:30s [range]," said Migani, 28. "But it's been a while since I've been there. I went to grad school, and that took a lot of time and an energy, and I was also [assistant] coaching at Norwich Free Academy." Migani is out of grad school and has a job and isn't coaching anymore, so he had a little more time to devote to training. "I never won this," he said. "Last year, I think I was fourth. It's pretty exciting coming up to the [Soldiers and Sailors] Arch and realizing I'm finally going to win it." Sam Alexander of Mystic finished second (15:59) and Henry Reichard of New Haven third (16:07), while Central Connecticut coach Eric Blake was fourth (16:50).

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