By Grace McGuire
Preparations for the Eversource Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon are underway and runners are training for the big day coming on October 8.
The race means different things to different Achilles Connecticut athletes, but all agree the race is a fantastic way to showcase their abilities in the largest athletic event in Connecticut.
“It’s a good chance to bring some attention to Achilles and to disabled runners, because there’s a lot of spotlight on that race,” Jim McCollum said. McCollum is a veteran of the event, but after exacerbating a recovering injury last time, he is calling this year’s race a “revenge race.”
“I was recovering from an injury at the time and I thought I was okay, but then it started acting up on me a few miles in, so I had a terrible finish,” McCollum said. “I feel like I owe that course something, so I’m going to give it to it.”
Athlete Jim McCollum (right) with his guide Earle Smola (left)
For some though, this race will represent a first in their athletic career. Achilles athlete, Tanmay Somanath, has already set a time goal for himself despite never having run a full marathon before. He has taken to asking anyone around him if they believe he can finish the Hartford Marathon within 6 hours.
It seems his mother, Anju Somanath, has more hesitancy about the distance, but the spirit of Achilles that shows in her son keeps them coming back for more races.
“He’s a man of few words, my son, but then you can see he’s got this glow in his eyes… he’s smiling ear to ear whenever he sees Achilles,” Mrs. Somanath said. “I feel like a winner, too.”
The mother-son duo have progressed from their humble beginnings before they met Achilles, when Anjuwould run 5k’s with her son simply to support him, taking double the time and ultimately crossing the finish line as her son looked on. Now as members of Achilles, Anju is able to take a more supportive role and let the guides run with Tanmay while she retires from her running career.
Achilles Connecticut has made a similar difference in fellow athlete, Jen Boulette’s life.
“Achilles came at a really good time of pushing against the idea that if I can’t do one thing I can’t do anything,” Boulette said.
After suffering a traumatic brain injury almost 30 years ago that especially affected her gait, balance and vision, Boulette’s relationship to fitness simply had to change. Lately, it seems she is in a new chapter of her recovery process and so her relationship towards running is shifting as well. Despite this, she is running the 5K in October alongside her fellow Achilles athletes.
Boulette feels “good” about her training, even though she has switched from using a hand cycle powered by her arms turning a crank, to running once again, or as she says, not running, but “plodding.”
“I want to use my legs when I can, as much as I can, and not kind of just bag them and use the hand cycle,” Boulette said. “I don’t think I’ll be fast by any means but I do feel more capable on my legs than I have felt in a long time…more aware of the bottoms of my feet.”
Athlete Jen Boulette (right) with guides Keri McKay (middle) and Hayley Forcier (left)
To her, it’s simply the matter of staying competitive, but being competitive within her own capabilities and standards, not those of the able bodied, which stands true for McCollum and Somanath too as each has a different goal for the upcoming race. Where they all are in agreement is their hope that the race will be a success.
“I hope that people will show up and I hope more disabled athletes will run it–and I hope people will make some donations, that would be good,” McCollum said. With that attitude the race is sure to be “good.”