Organizers of the inaugural West Hartford Relay had initially hoped 20 to 25 teams would participate in the race. But when the race kicked off at 8 a.m. Saturday at Town Hall, there were 32 teams – 135 people – running a total of 40 miles in five-mile loops around West Hartford.
Saturday dawned cloudy and cool, with a hint of mist in the air. The weather might have been a deterrent to many other outdoor activities, but it was perfect for distance running.
Kim Cowherd-Iacovazzi and Sarah Fite, both veteran participants in the New Hampshire "Reach the Beach" ultra-marathon relay, love the camaraderie and challenge of a relay race, and began the race so locals could benefit from the experience without the burden of travel.
Along with Cowherd-Iacovazzi's husband Vito Iacovazzi, they were not only the organizers of the event; but also participated by running as part of a four-person team.
Most of the teams had four members, with each running 10 miles of the 40-mile relay. However, there were a few "ultra" teams with only two runners, and some eight-person teams where each member ran just one of the five-mile legs.
Once the "Hello Kitty" team had entered the race, it was almost a foregone conclusion which team would win. Successful veterans of relay races, Hello Kitty has won the 200-plus mile ultra-marathon "Reach the Beach" relay in New Hampshire four times and did not disappoint, handily taking first place Saturday in the West Hartford Relay. Team members Brendan Callahan, Mark Knapp, Chris (Huggins) Yarsawich, and Anders Hildebrand completed the 40 miles in just 4 hours 9 minutes, averaging an incredible pace of just over 6 minutes per mile.
Second place was earned by one of the ultra teams – Old School 2 – with teammates Seth Oriol and Ted Newton each running four legs of five miles each in 4 hours and 48 minutes. Not only were they an ultra team, but both "masters" runners are over 50.
Third place belonged to a three-person all-women's team, the "Cardio Cougars" of West Hartford.
Although net proceeds from the race won't be available for several days, Iocavazzi said the first annual effort definitely earned enough to donate some money to the physical education department of West Hartford Public Schools.