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Andy Schachat's On the Run: Beyond the pain -- honoring New Hampshire's best at Boston

May 04. 2013 3:12AM

About 2 1/2 hours before the first bomb exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Nottingham's Brandon Newbould finished the race in 2 hours 25 minutes 45 seconds. Approximately 30 minutes later, Amherst's Alexandra Varanka finished in 2:54:35.

Under normal circumstances, Newbould's and Varanka's performances would have been a big deal in the Granite State. Why? Both runners followed in the footsteps, literally and figuratively, of a long line of distinguished New Hampshire athletes by finishing as top male and female at Boston.

Naturally, the tragedy that occurred later that afternoon pushed their accomplishments to the side.

A month after Boston, on Monday, May 13, Newbould and Varanka will receive the attention and accolades they deserve. That night, the Nashua-based Gate City Striders running club will present each runner with a Henri Renaud award, named for the Nashua resident who won the 1909 Boston Marathon, the only Granite Stater ever to win the race outright.

In 2009, on the 100th anniversary of Renaud's victory, the Striders established the award. Newbould was the first men's recipient, and Varanka won the award in 2011, so 2013 will be the second time around for each.

Not surprisingly, Newbould and Varanaka went through a swing of emotions on Marathon Monday. When they finished, both expressed understandable delight over what they'd accomplished. Newbould spoke of being very proud to represent the Granite State while Varanka expressed surprise and joy over taking New Hampshire honors a second time. Varanka had not expected to be top New Hampshire female because Walpole's Heidi Westover, also in the starting field, was capable of running 10 to 15 minutes faster. Westover dropped out of the race around the 11-mile mark, however, leaving Varanka as New Hampshire's fastest female.

Reactions changed, of course, a short time later.

"I was in my (hotel) room resting when I heard explosions," Newbould said. "When I learned what happened, I felt horrible."

Varanka was at lunch in the Government Center area of Boston when she heard about the explosions. She, too, was horrified by what happened, but her first reation was one of relief.

"I was glad my friends and family were with me and everyone I knew was accounted for," she said.

Under normal circumstances the past few weeks would have been fun ones for the Henri Renaud award winners as they received congratulations in person and via any and all forms of electronic communication. Yet four weeks after the Marathon, Varanka and Newbould won't feel entirely comfortable having the spotlight turned on them.

"It has been emotional for me," Varanka said earlier this week. "My coach (Ryan Carrara of New Balance Boston) has told me that I should allow myself to enjoy it, that I've earned it."

Newbould's feelings have been similar.

"It's hard to separate what I did from the rest of the day," he explained. "I appreciate the honor (of being top New Hampshire male), but it isn't easy to think about what I did without thinking of what else happened."

Full disclosure: I'll be at Runner's Alley in Nashua to present the Renaud awards, the Gate City Striders having honored me by asking me to emcee for the third straight year.

The past three weeks have been emotional for everyone associated with the running community. Anyone involved in the New Hampshire road race scene was either at the Boston Marathon, worried about friends at the Boston Marathon or both. It has affected us all.

So how do I feel about emceeing an event honoring top New Hampshire runners at this year's Boston?

The 2013 Boston Marathon always will be remembered for the bombings. Before the clock struck 2:50 p.m. on Patriots Day, however, thousands had finished Boston, many of them from the Granite State. What Brandon Newbould and Alexandra Varanka was extraordinary. It is an achievement to finish as New Hampshire top male and female in the Boston Marathon, and that achievement is worth noting.

The Gate City Striders did the right thing when they established the Henri Renaud award. There should be a ceremony that honors the Granite State's best at Boston, and 2013 is no exception. The grief and pain that everyone has experienced since the race are still present and will be a part of us for a long time. At the same time, it's OK to set aside the pain and remember that there were other things that happened at the race ... good things.

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RUNNING SHORTS: Dover's Casey Carroll and Hanover's Lucy Garfield were the first male and female finisher in the Chief Maloney Unity Run in Portsmouth and Greenland last Sunday. Rye's Andrew Martin and Somersworth's Sarah Elia won the Wallis Sands Half Marathon in Rye the same day. Scott McGrath of Andover, Mass., and Rochester's Denise Sandahl were the winners of the Red's Race in Dover the previous Sunday ... Interesting finish at the Totally Awesome 80's Run in Manchester on April 21. The first runner across the finish line was Meagan Boucher of Manchester. However, the race used the chrono track timing system that also measures net time, the exact time it takes each runner to get from the starting line to the finish line. According to one of the timers, Michael Day (hometown unknown) started about 30 seconds after the gun went off but ran a time faster that Boucher. Who should be declared the overall winner? When I posed that question on Facebook, most people said Boucher ... The second annual New Hampshire Komen Race for the Cure, a 5K run and walk to benefit the Vermont-New Hampshire Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, takes place this coming Saturday, beginning and ending at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth. Register online at or by calling 888-550-CURE ... Coming up in less than two weeks: the Rock 'N' Race 5K in Concord, on May 16. This race is known for one of the all-time great post-race feasts in New Hampshire road race history! I promise you will not go home hungry.

Andy Schachat's column on running and road racing in New Hampshire appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at

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