Last Monday, I had the honor of emceeing a special night hosted by the Nashua-based Gate City Striders running club. It was Henri Renaud Awards Night, honoring the top male and female finisher in this year's Boston Marathon. The GCS started this event in 2009, the 100th anniversary of the only Boston Marathon won by a New Hampshire resident, Nashua's own Henri Renaud.
I've been on an emotional high since that night - not just because of the uplift it provided in response to everything that transpired in Boston last month, but because it reminded me of something good and enduring.
The awards night reminded me how much I love being part of the New Hampshire road race and triathlon scene, and of how special that scene is. That got me thinking about all of the things I love about New Hampshire road and triathlon racing, so I made a list.
In no particular order ...
. ROCK 'N RACE FOOD.If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: There is no road race or triathlon that compares with this Concord 5K (which took place this past Thursday night) when it comes to feeding its participants. Many Concord area restaurants prepare meals fit for thousands of kings (and queens). My personal favorite is the chicken and salad.
. MILLENNIUM RUNNING SOCIAL CLUB. In 2012, John Mortimer started a Thursday-night running group based in Manchester. Now, every week, dozens gather to run a few miles, then have dinner and a few drinks at a Queen City establishment. Very strong friendships have been formed since the club started. It is a highlight on many a Greater Manchester runner's week.
. RED'S RACE FOR A BETTER COMMUNITY. In 1991, the Red's Shoe Barn 5-Miler was the first road race I ever ran. The name of the Dover event has changed, but the course is the same, and every year my memories of 1991 come to the surface as I think back on the community I entered 20 years ago.
. MARKET SQUARE DAY 10K. The MSD race has a place in my hear right next to the one occuppied by Red's Race. The 1996 MSD race was the first I ever worked as a race announcer. Now, hundreds of race-announcing assignments later, I still think about standing at the finish line in 1996 and flying by the seat of my pants as I tried to entertain the spectators and runners.
. FESTIVAL RACES IN GENERAL. Market Square Day, old-home-day celebrations, Nashua Rotary West's Rock'n Ribfest in Merrimack ... Any race that is part of a city or town's festival makes for a great day. It makes me feel as if the race participants are part of something bigger than the race. It also means there are probably some good eats afterwards.
. SCENERY. You think out-of-town tourists are the only ones who enjoy the sights of New Hampshire? From the Seacoast to the White Mountains and many points between, some of our races are held at breathtaking locations. Throw in some fall foliage, and you get the picture. This is especially true of triathlons. Because part of the competition takes place in a body of water, triathlons take place in and around some of New Hampshire's most beautiful lakes.
. TIMING COMPANIES. When I first got involved in the sport, the undisputed No. 1 timing company in these parts was Granite State Race Services ( I even worked for them for a few years). Now, GSRS is joined by Yankee Timing, New England Timing, and Millennium Timing as companies that have established great reputations. Some re timing races all over the country. We are very lucky to have such outstanding timers in our backyard.
. ELM STREET IN MANCHESTER. I love races that finish in the downtown section of a big city, and Elm Street is the main street in our biggest city. Watching runners fly down Elm and finish at Veterans Memorial Park is one of my biggest thrills as a race announcer. It also helps that the tall buildings enhance the acoustics of my sound equipment.
. MOUNT WASHINGTON ROAD RACE. How great is my love for Mount Washington? A race director of another event once asked me what my favorite New Hampshire race was. When I immediately answered "Mount Washington," he said, "That was a quick response." There is nothing like MountWashington. It is the Granite State's most prestigious race, attracting elite runners from around the world. On a clear day, the view from the summit is indescribable. It is also New Hampshire's oldest race, and accordingly it has a history and tradition unlike any other.
. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS. Another reason to love Mount Washington: For years that race and the Cranmore Hill Climb in Conway have taken turns serving as the USA Track and Field Mountain Running Championship. It may not have the cache of college basketball's Final Four or the PGA's U.S. Open, but a national championship race still carries a unique air about it.
. THE USATF-NEW ENGLAND GRAND PRIX. Regional championships are pretty prestigious, too, and New Hampshire has hosted quite a few New England Grand Prix events over the years. Always fun to see the region's best and brightest come to "our house."
. THE ST. CHARLES EAGLES. In the late 1990's, the nuns of Rochester's St. Charles Children's Home, a residence for kids from troubled families, started a running program to help the children deal with stress and self-esteem issues. The kids - along with some of the home's nuns - started entering local races and dubbed themselves the Eagles. It didn't take long before their story gained local, regional and national attention. Dozens of children have been served through this program.
. TED VOGEL, JOANNE DOW AND CATHY O'BRIEN. Thousands of runners to choose from, and I'm picking three individuals for special recognition. Even though he's a Massachusetts native, Vogel has lived in Dover for years, so I claim him as a Granite State runner. In 1948, he finished second in the Boston Marathon and also ran in the Summer Olympics in London. Talking to him is like talking to royalty.
Dow, winner of multiple national race-walk titles and a 2008 Olympian, is also a running coach who's been known to run the occasional New Hampshire race. Her trip to the '08 Games in Beijing was a dream fufilled - for her and for a bunch of Granite Staters rooting for her.
Then there's O'Brien. As eighth-grader Cathy Schiro, she won the New England Interscholastic Cross Country Championship. When she was 40, she was top New Hampshire woman at the Boston Marathon. In the quarter-century in between, she ran in two Olympics, set national records and brought immeasurable pride to the Granite State. My opinion? She's the greatest runner in New Hampshire history.
I could go on. There are so many people, places and things I love about the New Hampshire road race/triathlon scene. The standouts will have to do for now.
RUNNING SHORTS: Nashua's Ryan Aschbrenner and Milford's Raelyn Crowell Coates were the winners of the Big Lake Half Marathon on May 11. The same day, Nacho Hernando, an NHTI student, won the Canterbury Shaker Village 5K, his third win in the 2013 Capital Area Race Series. Hopkinton's Christin Doneski was the women's winner in a photo finish with Laconia's Abby Wood ... Some people think Mother's Day is not a good day for a race because of the commitments runners have as they honor the moms in their life. If that is true, then explain the 2,436 runners and walkers at a Mother's Day race in Portland, Maine ... There were 2,894 official finishers in the aforementioned Rock 'N Race, won by a pair of Concord residents, Franklin Pierce University runner Antoine Gisore (15:52) and Amber Ferreira (18:38) ... Another big race coming up next week: Sunday's Runner's Alley/Red Hook 5K in Portsmouth. The race sold out its 2,000 entries.
"Andy on the Run" appears every other Sunday in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email Andy Schachat at firstname.lastname@example.org.