Shluger receives national award for marathon work
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Sun., Mar. 20, 2011
When she was a young teenager, Glastonbury resident Beth Shluger's daughter Olivia used to hate getting up at 4 a.m. to help her mother coordinate events for the Hartford Marathon Foundation.
Olivia, now 20, as well as Shluger's son, David, not only helped Beth run the organization she founded, but are also part of the reason Beth recently received a prestigious award for her work.
Shluger, who is executive director of the Hartford Marathon Foundation based in Glastonbury, was honored as the 2011 recipient of the prestigious national Women's Running Trailblazer Award by RunningUSA magazine.
The distinction recognizes one female in the United States every year who demonstrates a continued dedication to the sport of distance running, has a track record of serving the sport with distinction and also gives back in a volunteer capacity.
Shluger was nationally recognized in front of 400 people at Running USA's 2011 industry conference on Feb. 14 in San Antonio, TX. She joins an exclusive list of just seven other distinguished past winners.
Shluger said that, when she was at the conference, she was completely unaware that she had won the award, up until the very moment they announced her name.
“They were describing the person getting the award, and I was thinking 'I did that,'” Shluger said. “Then they said a quote that I had said in a newspaper article in 2008, and I thought, 'Wow, I feel the same way.'”
Shluger said she was surprised and honored to win the award, as well as to be surrounded by so many women who shared her vision and goals.
She also said the award is not hers alone, adding that the reason she won it was because she surrounded herself with the best people.
“They have the same passion for what I do, and we work well as a team,” she said, adding that she's extremely proud of how the organization has grown.
Shluger started the foundation herself in 1994, with the support of her husband and a few close friends.
“Now, it is a huge organization that has a huge staff, and literally 1,000 volunteers,” she said. “We're really blessed to be involved with something so many people have such passion about. People get a great deal of passion out of it and its success.”
The Hartford Marathon Foundation produces about 50 events, year-round, including road races, training programs for adults and children, triathlons, and marathons, including the premier ING Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon.
“We're very busy,” Shluger said, “and of course the marathon is the crown jewel of the whole thing. That's a year-round focus.”
The 2011 season kicks off March 19 and 20 with a 5k run in Niantic and the Max's O'Hartford 5k and Wee Mile.
Shluger said the foundation will offer a lot more training programs in 2011, as well as more new swimming programs. It will also offer more of its running programs to new parts of the state.
It will also be adding a new trail run.
“We haven't done anything off-road in quite a few years,” Shluger said, adding that more running events are still being added, including some with charity partners.
Over the 18 years, Shluger said the foundation has had many landmarks, including when it first topped 10,000 participants, and is proud of how it has become embedded in the community.
The gold standard for marathons, Shluger said, is getting the sponsorship of ING, which also sponsors marathons in New York City and Miami, Florida.
“That really catapulted us into the national spotlight,” she said.
“We've also been able to secure the foundation with a really terrific board of directors,” she said. “So, when I leave, it won't go away. As we grow, we find every year brings new challenges and new excitement. We're still having fun, and we're still excited every day.”
Shluger said her son David, who has a career in insurance in Manhattan, still comes back to help at the foundation's major events, and takes a week's vacation to help with the Hartford Marathon. Olivia also works at every event.
“She's been a loyal volunteer since she was 2 years old,” Shluger said.
The Foundation will hold an Open House on Sunday, April 3, at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford from 1-3 p.m. People can sign-up for running groups, meet training group coaches and ask questions. Free activities include a mini swim-stroke clinic, various health and wellness exhibitors, guest speakers and a 5K run kicking off at 12:30 pm. Registration for all 2011 events will be open and HMF merchandise will be available.
For a complete listing of Hartford Marathon events, visit www.hartfordmarathon.com.