NH's top prospects happy to be part of Boston
No way Milford's Tammie Robie was missing this Boston Marathon.
One of New Hampshire's top runners and the female from the state with the best Boston time in 2007, Robie had to sit out the two most recent renditions of the historic race.
Two years ago, she was two days away from giving birth to her daughter, Brooke, who celebrated her birthday on Friday. Last year, Robie had not been able to get a qualifying time and sat at home and watched the race - but had turned it off by the time the bombs exploded - with her baby.
Monday, she'll be right back in the thick of things.
"I would not have missed this one for the world," Robie said. "You know, it's just like probably everyone else has said. What happened made it so much bigger. It's hard to put it into words. ... I can't even put it into words. As you watch things on the television, more and more it becomes clear this is so much bigger than any of us understand. I think it will be the most incredible experience ever. I just think it's going to be 26 miles of emotion. I'm just honored and so happy I get a chance to be a part of it as a qualified runner."
Robie, 39, will likely again be one of the top female finishers from the state - though former Conant High School of Jaffrey and Boston University standout Andrea Walkonen is the clear favorite for those honors - and trained all winter with the goal of breaking the three-hour mark.
The truth is, what she gets for a time doesn't make a whole lot of difference, said Robie, a teacher at Elm Street Middle School in Nashua.
Covering the entire 26.2 miles to the finish line - and more importantly reclaiming the finish line - is all that matters.
Walkonen for the women and Kevin Johnson, who is living in Lebanon and working in Hanover while studying cancer epidemiology for a doctoral degree at Dartmouth, for the men had the best qualifying times among the New Hampshire runners competing on Monday.
An All-Atlantic 10 Conference and Academic All American runner at the University of Massachusetts, Johnson qualified in a time of 2 hours, 25 minutes and change in 2012 in Chicago.
He's hoping to go under 2:30 in Boston, but like Robie is not overly concerned about time this year.
"This race means a lot to people in Massachusetts and my friends and family who ran it last year," said Johnson, who is originally from Ludlow, Mass. "From a selfish standpoint, the energy is going to be incredible and it's a great thing to be a part of. I think it will be a great experience."
Johnson, 25, will be having a bit of a race within a race. His twin brother David, who was also a standout UMass runner and is now in grad school there, is also entered.
"I think he's looking to exact some revenge," Kevin said.
The twins are usually close together in a race, but at the Chicago Marathon Kevin pulled away late to beat David by almost four minutes.
David's desire for vengeance may go back longer than that.
"I'm older by two minutes," Kevin said and then laughed. "That's the ongoing joke. I beat him by two minutes but it was by Cesarean section and he says I cheated and cut the course."
Walkonen, 27, won the girls cross country Meet of Champions in 2003 while competing for Conant and then moved on to BU where she was a three-time All American.
She is a physical therapist and lives in Lebanon and has said recently that she is shooting to meet the "A" standard of 2:37 for the Marathon trials for the 2016 Olympics.
"If she's on her game, she definitely could hit that as long as the conditions are in her favor," said longtime BU coach Bruce Lehane, who recruited Walkonen to college and coached here there but does not work with her now.
Walkonen qualified for Boston with a 2:43:47 in Houston in January of 2013. On March 17, she was the second female finisher in the New Bedford (Mass.) half marathon in a time of 1:13:13.
Robie, then on the coaching staff at Bishop Guertin of Nashua, was impressed by Walkonen back when she ran for Conant and looks forward to seeing how she does at Boston.
"Unless she runs into a wall, she'll probably be the first New Hampshire person," Robie said. "She's legit."