He’s still in it. Without a major sponsor, Boulder’s elite distance runner Jason Hartmann looks to the ING NYC Marathon as, well, just another race.
At 32 years old, Hartmann has finished higher than any other American in major marathons for two and a half years, but without making a U.S. Olympic team. He’s twice finished fourth at the Boston Marathon. Before his 2013 ING New York City Marathon debut, he took a breather to answer Run.com’s questions in Boulder, Colo., where he lives and trains. His answers have been edited for clarity.
Q. With the ING New York City Marathon coming up, how are your preparations going?
So far, I can’t complain. The goal has always been to be as best prepared as I can. I’m confident in my preparation. [The race is] the final exam. The thing with the marathon is you never know. There’s a lot that could go wrong in an event that goes over 2 hours. There’s an element of unknowing, but I’ve trained really hard, so I’m confident in my fitness.
Q. Both Boston and New York Marathons are both very challenging courses. Given your success on the hills of Boston, do you feel that New York will be similar?
There are a lot of similarities. Since the ING NYC Marathon course isn’t really fast, it’s more competitive. It’s not a world-record style race, so strategy is a key component there. You have to execute your race plan.
Q. What are your goals for New York?
My goal is to finish as high on the podium as I can. I’m not going to put a place or time limit on myself. The race will unfold as it always does, so I’ll have to make decisions as the race unfolds. My goal as always is just to be as competitive as possible.
Q. You occasionally train with Brad Hudson and HTS (Hudson Training Systems) Elite, so you’ve got a great support group in Boulder. Do you feel this helps when you’re racing?
The team component in the training group has been great. I still do a lot of workouts on my own, but I’ll work out with guys from the group when our training meshes up. Having the support within the Boulder community is very helpful. It’s great having people wish me luck before my big races. In Boulder, as a running community we all want each other to run well. Everyone wants to succeed, so when one of us does, it feels like we all do.
Q. “Bonking” is a common trend among marathoners, but you’ve strung together two great marathon performances at Boston in 2012 and 2013 — on a difficult course, on difficult days. How do you manage to avoid the bonk?
Practice the way you plan to race. People change things on race day out of nervousness, but it’s just another day, and just another race. The marathon is really about trial and error, and you have to bonk before you really know what it’s about. In my first marathon, despite all the great knowledge I gained from elite runners and coaches that I knew, I still bonked. The marathon is an experience, and the only way to get better at the distance is to run the distance. But you learn from that, and apply that moving forward. It’s all about adjusting to the situation at hand.
Q. Outside of running, what hobbies do you enjoy?
When I’m training I’m all in. When I’m out of training, I try to be as ‘normal’ as possible. My dog, Max, just died several weeks ago, but before his departure, I enjoyed hiking the trails around Boulder with him. Besides that, I enjoy hanging out with friends and coaching [Niwot High School’s Elise Cranny, a national standout].
Q. You’re 32 years old, without a major sponsor, and running for yourself. What keeps you going?
Multiple things: After losing sponsorships, I got back to the essence of what my running was all about — that’s to push myself, and compete at the highest level possible. It’s about the satisfaction that comes with enduring something this difficult.
I hadn’t had that perspective until I lost my sponsorship. So, in a way it’s been good, but you always want that support from the sponsorship. It made me more hungry in my running. I feel a joy about my running pursuits now, the way I had when I first got into it. I like to perform. I don’t do this for notoriety. I just love to compete. When I don’t have that anymore, then I’ll put that into focus into coaching. But for now, I’m still in it.
Q. How do you want to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered as someone who treated the sport well, but also gave back to it. I see myself coaching when my running career is over. I see myself probably at the collegiate level. I really want to expose younger people to the sport of running, so they can see that it’s a great avenue for life.
Everyone is testing himself or herself, and wondering why the hell he or she signed up for this. The satisfaction is the same for the regular jogger and the elite. We all hurt, and we all overcome.
A great example is Steve Jones (“Jonesy”). He’s a former World Record holder, but now he gives back to the sport by coaching or giving motivational speeches. He’s never talking about the records he’s broken or the races he’s won, he’s there to help you reach your potential. Those are the things I want to emulate when I get into that profession.
Jason Hartmann is slated to toe the line at the ING New York City Marathon on November 3. He’ll race along the streets of the five boroughs against some of the best marathoners in the world, with the entire city of Boulder behind him.
Follow him on twitter @JasonRHartmann