One of Anne Hanson Curtis’ final lasting memories of her older brother, Brian, came when he insisted on a Christmastime run around a reservoir near her Easthampton, Mass., home.
Now five years after Brian Hanson took his own life, his sister is running in his honor to benefit a cause he would cherish.
Curtis, 29, is preparing for the Hyannis (Mass.) Marathon on Feb. 26 as part of a campaign to raise funds for the Hartford Parks and Recreation Scholarship Fund.
Curtis is about $900 away from meeting her $4,000 goal toward the scholarship which helps children of limited financial means participate in Hartford’s youth sports activities.
Anne and Brian both played numerous sports by way of Hartford Parks and Recreation’s offerings while growing up White River Junction. Both went on to excel in athletics in high school and beyond, Anne as a three-sport Hartford High and college field hockey standout and Brian as a two-sport Hurricane before becoming a fitness company sales representative in Vermont’s Champlain Valley.
Brian Hanson committed suicide five years ago today, eight days prior to his 27th birthday.
“I wanted to do something to mark the five-year anniversary, but I also wanted to challenge myself,” said Curtis, a two-year Hartford High field hockey captain who helped the Hurricanes win three state titles before becoming a two-time All-American midfielder at Union College. “I thought running a wintertime marathon in New England is a pretty good challenge.”
Curtis is a veteran of two marathons, the latter when she finished the Hartford (Conn.) Marathon in 3 hours, 50 minutes in 2013. She’d bettered that time in the Vermont City Marathon during her sophomore year of college, completing the Burlington course in 3:43.
“I remember crossing the finish line that day. Brian was there, and he thought I was crazy for doing it,” Curtis recalled. “But a few years later, he was over for Christmas and said ‘Let’s go for a run.’ He clobbered me while we ran around the reservoir near my house. He was a big dude, but he was always known as the fastest big dude on the teams he played for.”
Sports started at a young age for both siblings, Anne first wielding a field hockey stick in third grade and Brian taking early to soccer, tennis and basketball. He played soccer and tennis for the Hurricanes and continued soccer as an adult in a men’s league near his Essex Junction, Vt., home.
Curtis said her brother was well aware of the benefits youth sports in Hartford helped provide.
“Youth sports was an integral part of our lives, both in terms of making friends and learning the rules of life,” said Curtis, a social work supervisor. “You learn about values and teamwork. You learn that everyone has a role and that you need to work together, even if it’s with people who you wouldn’t necessarily choose to have around you in regular life.
“You have to put those things aside for the common good. Of course, there are many examples of that in the professional world.”
Always one of the fastest on the field during her team-sports days, Curtis didn’t begin running on her own in earnest until after graduating from Union. It helped her find an athletic outlet after team sports, long vital to her identity, were suddenly gone.
“I’ve always said field hockey is a very aerobic sport because the field is so big and you’re running up and down it all the time,” she said. “After that was over, I started running for the exercise.”
Curtis now cross-trains with bodybuilding activities, noting her increased strength appears to be providing a noticeable boost in her sneakers.
“I’ve been using lots of weights and running a couple days per week,” she said. “I think the weights have had a positive effect on my endurance. I now feel like I’m hitting my stride after about six miles, and I think the muscle strength helps with that.”
Curtis is well aware her second marathon was a few minutes slower than her first. She’ll be gunning for a personal record in Hyannis, but she is focusing most of her energy on the cause.
“I think every athlete wants that PR, but the goal for me is to do the race as a vehicle for the scholarship fund,” she said. “I want to help more kids experience sports in Hartford like Brian and I did.”
For more information or to donate, visit www.youcaring.com and search for “Hartford Recreation Department.”
To donate by check, make payable to Hartford Parks and Recreation and send to Hartford Parks and Recreation Department Attn: Scholarship Fund, 171 Bridge St., White River Junction, VT, 05001
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3225.