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Woman looks to continue marathon streak

October 8, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — On Labor Day weekend, in 1999, LeAnn Power flew over the handlebars of her bike while she was out for a ride and broke her jaw.

“I grabbed my front brakes, went down and landed straight on my chin,” she said.

She had surgery. Her jaw was wired shut. The Hartford Marathon was six weeks away.

The previous five years she had run the marathon or the half-marathon at the Hartford Marathon. She still wanted to try to run, to keep her streak alive.

“That was probably the closest I wasn’t going to make it,” said Power, of Wethersfield. “My face was huge after the surgery. But I was able to do it.”

Power ran the 5K. And surprisingly, she ran her fastest Hartford 5K time — 26:21 — to date.

She is 52 now with two children, ages 9 and 11, and Power is the only woman to run in one of the Eversource Hartford Marathon’s races every year in some form since 1994. There are three men — Peter Hawley of New Hartford, Andrew Bartlett of Windsor and Robert Kopac of Shelton — who have run all 24 marathons, but over the years, the women who had participated in all the races has dwindled.

Power ran the marathon in 1994, finishing 152nd out of 246 entrants. She still has the sweatshirt from that year. The next year, she ran the marathon, in 4:08:38. Then the half-marathon for the next three years. Then the 5K with her jaw wired shut. After that, she alternated between the half and the 5K, depending on what her training status was. In 2007, she ran the 5K four months after she had her daughter; the next year, she was five months pregnant with her son when she ran the 5K and ran her slowest time (32:37).

“I had to go the bathroom the whole time,” she said, laughing. “Those years, it was tough.

“Then I started doing the half again.”

Power has run through rain and freezing cold (but she works at the state library, where the starting line on Capitol Avenue is now, so she was able to go inside and keep warm before the race). She’s run through warmer weather, always variable in mid-October, so you never know what temperatures you’re going to get. She’s run the half-marathon nine times.

She’s hoping to do the half again this year — the race is Oct. 13, starting at Bushnell Park — but a hamstring has been bothering her so she may have to drop down to the 5K.

Power, who was a tennis player in high school and college, started running her freshman year at the University of North Dakota to keep off what she called “the freshman 15.” She discovered she liked running so much she started training for Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota (her home state) and ran that in 1986. She ran Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota in 1988, before she moved to Connecticut.

Then she saw Hartford was going to have a marathon.

“The Hartford race came up and it had been six years, and I thought, ‘I want to do the first Hartford Marathon,’” Power said. “It was exciting. You enter the first race. How often does that happen?”

Power, then LeAnn Johnson, finished in 3:52:21, good for third in her age group (20-29).

“I think there were only six in it,” she said.

Her goal was always to finish under four hours in the marathon and under two hours in the half. She didn’t always hit the mark, but that was OK. She liked the people she met at the race, the massage tent, and as the years went on — and the race amenities multiplied — getting a free beer, even though she didn’t drink beer.

“The marathon, it’s too much for me now,” she said. “But I love the half.”

When the race was in its 10th year, organizers honored 33 people who had run the nine previous years, as well as volunteers who had worked on the race. Olympian Jackie Joyner Kersee was there, and posed for pictures with the members of the 10 year club. Power has a picture with her.

That’s when she realized she had to keep running the race every year.

″(The late) Mary Haines, the 90-year-old, she was there,” Power said. “I want to be that woman. I want to be out here at 90.”

You only have to run it another 40 years, I said, and she laughed.

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Online: https://cour.at/2C3WNKD

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Information from: Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com

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