Q&A with Hartford Marathon Foundation CEO Beth Shluger

BY John Stearns

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Beth Shluger, who founded the Hartford Marathon Foundation (HMF) in 1994 and served as race director for the Eversource Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon for the past 24 years, caught her breath to answer some questions on the heels of another successful event last month.

The Oct. 14 race pumped an estimated $14.5 million into Greater Hartford — a strong kick by any measure — not including HMF's $1 million budget to produce the event. It drew 10,000 runners across the Marathon, Half Marathon, Team 26.2 Relay and Charity 5K and children's race. Pending final numbers, the race appears to have raised $500,000-plus for charity.

While the marathon costs $1 million to operate, HMF's budget is $3 million as it produces 31 events in Connecticut, Rhode Island and western Massachusetts. HMF, a nonprofit with a staff of six full-time and eight part-time employees, depends on donations, sponsorships and in-kind product donations to make it all happen.

HMF plans special events to mark next year's 25th running of the marathon, on Oct. 13, said Shluger, who runs to stay in shape.

What's the biggest challenge facing HMF?

Funding, especially as the growth spurt in the running industry has leveled off. We incur costs for a high level of service (medical, safety, organizational, etc.) that we won't compromise on.

What's the biggest opportunity facing HMF?

To reach more people, particularly kids, and get them outdoors and moving. The HMF FitKids in School program, in its 10th year, has served more than 15,000 students, supporting their training and then celebrating them for crossing the finish line. The program is free to schools through individual donations (matched by Aetna) and other sponsors, including the United Bank Foundation and Newman's Own Foundation.

What's the competitive landscape for sponsorships to put on an event of this magnitude?

HMF events offer companies a unique opportunity for their sponsorship dollars to support employee engagement, community involvement and high brand visibility — all wrapped around the positive benefits of health and fitness. We're fortunate to have about 75 companies supporting the marathon, led by Eversource.

Tell us something about you people may not know.

I was a wine sommelier and sous chef earlier in my career.