We have reached the halfway point on the 2013 New Hampshire road race schedule, so let's pause and take a look at the top stories of the first six months.
-- The attack on the Boston Marathon: No, the world's most storied road race doesn't take place in New Hampshire, but it annually includes hundreds of New Hampshire runners, as well as dozens of volunteers and staff and countless spectators from the Granite State. Some of those spectators were among the injured when terrorists detonated two bombs on Boylston Street, near the marathon's finish line.
Before the bombs exploded, Brandon Newbould of Nottingham and Sasha Varanka of Amherst were the top Granite State male and female finishers. Their performances were mere footnotes to the day's events, however - at least until Nashua's Gate City Striders honored them a few weeks later with the presentation of the annual Henri Renaud Awards.
-- Snowed out: The recent summer heat and humidity may make it easy to forget that it was a pretty tough winter, with plenty of snow. One of the casualties was the Half at the Hamptons Half Marathon, which had been scheduled for Feb. 23 with about 1,300 registered to run. Never before had a New Hampshire race with that many entries been canceled because of weather.
Ironically, the worst snow storm of the winter occurred two weeks earlier, but most of that snow fell on a Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, Feb. 10, the sun came out, and more than 800 were able to run the first Snowflake Shuffle in Bedford. A one-day shift in that weekend's storm, and that race probably would have joined the cancellation list.
-- Growth of the 1,000 Club. The "1000 Club" is the nickname for New Hampshire races that have more than 1,000 finishers. Underscoring the continued growth of the Granite State road race scene, races that had not reached that mark in the past did so in 2013.
This year's first new member of the 1,000 Club was a first-time race, Manchester's Cinco De Miles 5K - on May 5, of course. Next, on Father's Day weekend, New Hampshire's oldest race, the Mount Washington Road Race, had more than 1,000 finishers for the first time in its 53-year history. The following day, the Ribfest Five Miler in Merrimack drew more than 1,000 finishers in its second year of existence. Then, on July 3, the Hinckley Allen Manchester Mile and 5K had more than 1,000 finishers in its third year.
All except the Mount Washington Road Race, it should be noted, are productions of Millennium Running, the race management company operated by John Mortimer.
The new additions bring the number to 16 so far in 2013, two ahead of the pace in 2012, which ultimately saw a record 24 races with more than 1,000 finishers.
-- Historically fast. Two New Hampshire races saw fast finishers unlike others the Granite State has hosted. On June 13, the Hollis Fast 5K served as the USA Track and Field-New England Grand Prix 5K Championship, and the winners ran the second-fastest male and female 5Ks in New Hampshire history. Twenty-two runners finished under 15 minutes, eclipsing the old record of 10, and close to 500 finished under a 7-minute-per-mile pace. The race could claim title to being the fastest 5K in New Hampshire history.
On Wednesday night, July 3, all eyes were on Brian Gagnon of Lowell, Mass., a nationally ranked 800-meter runner. Gagnon delivered, running the Hinckley Allen Manchester Mile in 3 minutes 42.97 seconds, one of the fastest miles ever run on American soil. Using a downhill course deemed too fast for a USA Track and Field record, Gagnon ran even faster than the recognized world record. His performance created quite a memory for the hundreds of spectators who cheered him on.
-- Best runners: In the first half of 2013, a newcomer to the New Hampshire road race scene grabbed most of the headlines. Nacho Hernando, an NHTI Concord student, won a number of races in the Capital Area Race Series as well as other races in the Concord and Manchester areas. Hernando closed out the first half of the year with the most wins, six, of any runner in the state.
On the Seacoast, Rochester's Eric Couture grabbed headlines by winning two major events, the Runner's Alley/Redhook 5K and the Market Square Day 10K.
On the women's side, Hopkinton's Christin Doneski took the lead in the Capital Area Race Series to lay claim to being the top New Hampshire female in the first half of the year, but keep your eye on former UNH runner Keely Maguire. Maguire has won three races and finished second in a fourth since graduating in May.
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RUNNING SHORTS: While Gagnon created a stir at the Manchester Mile, the women's winner, Nicole Traynor of Clinton, N.J., also turned in an outstanding performance, finishing in 4:20. In the 5K, the winners were current UNH runner Louis Saviano and Stephanie Burnham of Goffstown ... Other winners from Independence Day events: Tom Davis and Jessica Barton, both from Newton, Mass., at the Revolution Run in Nashua; Matt Valli of Andover, Mass., and Brittany Sordello of Dover at the Friends of the Fourth 5K in Portsmouth; Justin Montgomery of Claremont and Laura Hagley of Lebanon at the Red, White and Blue 6.2 in Lebanon ... If you love the history and traditions of the New Hampshire road race scene then you should join me on Saturday, July 20, in Concord for the 46th Bill Luti Five Miler. The Luti race is the second-oldest race in the state (behind Mount Washington) and is truly one of the treasures on our schedule.
Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshrie Sunday News. Email him at email@example.com.