"The goal this year is staying strong," he said, "and coming in one minute better."
Connolly talks in a current about tweaking his gear, sifting through shoes, eating a bagel with salmon and chia seeds but not too much cream cheese, filling his trademark CamelBak with a new energy goo. He likes dealing with people, especially running nerds. On the day those details come together though, it's all about three digits.
"I would be completely satisfied," he said, "with that 2:50." To achieve that time, Connolly will need to sustain a mile pace of around 6:15.
Most marathoners consider breaking three hours an impressive mark, the gateway to notable races like the Boston Marathon. As runners drop below that time though, it becomes exponentially more difficult to shed the next minute. To shave off a time increment much smaller than the 12 minutes he cut from 2011 to 2012, Connolly said he would have to step up his training.
During a typical week, the luminous Connolly clocks many of his 30 to 50 miles alone in the dark. He tiptoes out the door at 5:30 a.m. to avoid waking the kids or stretches his legs after a full day driving his electrical van across town. He supplements his wiry frame with his Camelback and blinking safety light.
A few weeks earlier, he finished four 13-mile runs, which he considers his optimal distance. One day he struck out for two of those runs with a day of work between, a full marathon in 24 hours.
Connolly traverses mid-mountain, where "on most days," he said, "there are more deer and moose than people," or treks from home in piney Summit Park into Newpark, the Park City Marathon start and finish.
Concerts draw tourist throngs across the pavement. "The other day I came through when there was a live band, and I'm just blazing right through," he said. "People are like 'what's going on?'"
They'll find out in a week, when Connolly lines up with Jason Howe, last year's second place finisher in 2:56, and Dominick Layfield, who topped the solo category on the 41-mile Running with Ed course, a distance most people split across a five-person relay team.
"I think we're going to be neck and neck," Connolly said, when he recalled Howe and Layfield. "I think it gets tighter every year."
Connolly's most unsympathetic opponent will prove to be the course, which begins with a roundabout climb from Newpark across the Rail Trail to Snowpark Lodge, then back along Route 224, finishing around Swaner Nature Preserve.
Although the opening climb spans several miles, Connolly said he would focus more on the last stretch. Runners might compute split times more quickly than they turn on their finishing kick, but an apocryphal marathon saying still holds that "mile 20 is halfway."
"I always struggle those last six miles," Connolly said. "I've had the experience where I'm just crawling toward the finish line. I've just got to hone in and do it."
Connolly's first long race came when he joined a Ragnar team with a group of electricians. That sparked a love of the half-marathon distance and led him to his first full marathon, Park City four years ago, where he ran a respectable 3:31.
The next year, he gutted a half hour from his time, and the year after that clocked his personal record, 2:51. He has completed marathons in Salt Lake and Cedar City, one of his favorite courses. After a 2:40 finish in St. George this year, Connolly will likely qualify for Boston.
Connolly is also undertaking the Mountain Trails Foundation's Triple Trails Challenge, made up of last Saturday's Jupiter Peak Steeplechase, the Park City Marathon and the Mid-Mountain Marathon. Layfield finished three minutes ahead of him in the Steeplechase, but Connolly worries more about the competition in his head.
"I'm racing myself race day and I'm racing for that 2:50," Connolly said. "If I end up being first, that's for the better, but it's never really been about that."
Few athletes quantify their success like distance runners. On the results sheet, a 26.2-mile race reduces to seconds and even tenths of seconds, opening runners to infinite competition. Theoretically, every marathoner who ever lived could claim a place in one master list of finish times.
It would make sense that Connolly only concerns himself with the next 60 seconds.