HARTFORD, March 23 – It was cold in downtown Hartford on Saturday morning. There were snow flurries that floated down into the city and there were biting wind gusts that frequently whipped up Main Street.
There were smiles, love and the positive energy from over 15,000 people that wanted to pay tribute and honor the 20 children and six teachers who were senselessly taken away from us in Newtown on December 14 by a lone man with his guns. People wanted to honor the first responders – the men and women of our police, fire and emergency departments.
It was an opportunity to hug each other, smile, do something positive for the future and celebrate life.
The first Sandy Hook 5K Run for Families was held Saturday in Hartford with 15,000 running in the 3.1 mile road race, a few hundred more competing in Fun Runs for kids and a few thousand spectators there to cheer on the runners and to be part of the event.
The race was originally scheduled to be at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. Race organizers expected about 3,000 runners. However, 2,000 runners signed up in the first 24 hours. The race was moved to downtown Danbury. The numbers of runners wanting to enter the race didn’t stop and the race was moved to Hartford. The Hartford Marathon Foundation was kind enough to organize the fledging event and they capped entries at 15,000 participants.
Organizers still found a way to include more runners.
Runners had the option of competing in the Virtual Division. They could run a 5K wherever they were and would get their name in the results (without a finish time) and a race shirt in the mail after the event has occurred. Their entry fee was a 100 percent donation for the Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
A big roar went up from the crowd when race director Beth Shluger presented the United Way of Western Connecticut a donation of over $438,000 to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund just minutes before the race began. The United Way chapter is administering the Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
Usually, the few minutes before a road race begins, it is a buzz of activity with people warming up, jogging in place and getting ready to run. But when a bell tolled 26 times in honor of the children and teachers killed in December, there was little movement among the runners. Noise was reduced to a minimum. Heads bowed and thoughts went to the loved ones who are not here today.
A few minutes later, the racers were off into the wind, racing around the streets of Hartford to Bushnell Park. The sun broke through the clouds to warm the athletes.
New London’s Stephen Pretak and Scott Mindel crossed the finish line together in 16:10. They both train together. “It was a good training run for us,” Pretak said. “We didn’t run all out. But we were glad to show our support and it all worked out well.”
Kelani Carbonneau of West Hartford was the first woman finisher in 18:01. She finished ninth overall. Canton’s Patrick Mccue finished 27th in the field with a time of 19:20.