The NYC Half on Sunday will be Jason Hartmann’s first race in nine months. Will it also be one of his last stands?
After the ING New York City Marathon was cancelled last fall because of Hurricane Sandy, the veteran American considered several other possibilities before finally deciding to “shut it down and take a rest” after the emotional letdown.Now he’s back, but for how long is a mystery even to him. After Sunday, Hartmann will return next month to the Boston Marathon, in which he finished fourth—amd first among Americans—last year on a headline day in his long career. Nonetheless, when asked how long he is committed to running competitively, he replied: April 15th.
Hartmann, carrying on without a shoe sponsor, will turn 32 next week. Training has been going well, he said; his 130 to 135 miles a week are more than he was doing last year, and he feels good about where he is for Sunday’s half-marathon, an important "pre-test" for the upcoming marathon.
But if Boston doesn’t go as well as he hopes it will, he acknowledged, he might decide to call it a career.
“I feel really comfortable with it,” he said of the possibility on Friday at a press conference before the NYC Half. “I really just have a comfort with my running now that I just work hard and do the best I can.”
Much of that comfort level comes from his decision after a disappointing 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials to coach himself, not because of any specific dissatisfaction—indeed, Hartmann said he still uses much of what he’s learned from his earlier coaches—but more because he felt that it was time to take responsibility for himself.
“I sleep a lot easier at night,” he said. “I trust in what I'm doing, and that's a big component … when you trust things and you believe in what you're doing, I think you just take confidence in that. That doesn't guarantee it works out or anything, but I'll take the chance. I think part of me wishes that [I had done it] earlier, but I didn't have the confidence yet. Now I'm at the age that I feel 100-percent confident in what I'm doing.”
If there’s a downside, he said, it’s that he has a tendency to over-train, and now there is no one telling him to stop. Finding the right balance, he said, has been a challenge, but one he feels he has come to terms with, understanding that every workout doesn’t need to be a home run.
“I'm fine with hitting singles now instead of trying to jack one out of the park, because you strike out a lot, too,” he said.
Hartmann, whose marathon personal best is 2:11:06, knows that he’s never going to beat a 2:05 or 2:06 marathoner on speed. Instead, his goal now is to out-strategize and outsmart the faster guys; to capitalize on their mistakes rather than beating himself by running on emotion. That’s what landed him a high spot in Boston last year, when some of the best marathoners in the world succumbed to the heat after going out too fast.
It’s an ironic combination of patience and, where his running is concerned, acting as if there is no tomorrow. Instead of training for development, Hartmann is training for the day. The day is April 15.
“And beyond April 16th, I’m not really thinking about,” he said.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg