I HAVE OFTEN said that when New Hampshire runners do something extraordinary, they bring pride and honor to all who are part of this state's running community. Four runners have recently done that and that is why I want to tell the stories of Andrew Huebner, Larisa Dannis, Jessica Goldman and Paul Kirsch.
Portsmouth's Huebner has been one of New Hampshire's top runners for the past couple of years but no one saw what was coming this year. On June 14, Heubner won New Hampshire's largest 10K, the Market Square Day 10K, in 30 minutes, 31 seconds. It was the fastest time at the MSD race since 2000, the third fastest since 1989, and the 10th-fastest winning time in the race's 37-year history.
It also should have been a signal for what was to come one week later.
On June 21, Huebner was in Duluth, Minn., for the Grandma's Marathon. It all came together for the 26-year-old as he finished with a time of 2:17:05, one of the fastest marathons ever run by a New Hampshire runner.
A little perspective.
The New Hampshire state record for the marathon is the exact time Huebner ran in Minnesota, 2:17:05. It was turned in by Neil Wood at the 1983 Clarence DeMar Marathon in Keene. That means Huebner's time at Grandma's was as fast as any marathon time run within Granite State boundries.
It was also one of the fastest run by a New Hampshire runner at any marathon, anywhere in the country. By all accounts, there are only two marathon times faster by New Hampshire runners, the 2:15:26 and 2:15:35 turned in by the twins from Pelham, Casey and Patrick Moulton, at the Freescale Austin Marathon in Austin, Texas, in February, 2006. In other words, it would appear that a few weeks ago, Huebner ran the third-fastest marathon ever by a Granite Stater.
If ranking among the fastest all-time New Hampshire marathoners wasn't enough, Huebner also qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon trials that will take place in 2016. That is rarified air for a New Hampshire runner.
Dannis' strength is running long distances ... really long distances. Dannis, of Strafford, is an ultra-marathoner who has run very well at ultra-marathons around the country. Then, on June 28, Dannis stepped up her game and stepped up to highest levels of female U.S. ultra-marathoners. On that day, Dannis finished second at the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Race in California.
Ultra-marathons don't receive a lot of attention, so a little education is in order. Western States is one of the premier ultras in the country, if not the world. As the event claims on the its website, "It is one of the crown jewels of human endurance. Runners climb 18,000 feet and descend 23,000 feet. The goal is to finish within 30 hours to receive a coveted belt buckle. Under 30 hours earns a bronze buckle and under 24 hours a silver buckle.
Dannis not only earned a silver belt buckle, she was the second female, in a time of 18:29:18. That was good for 22nd overall out of 296 finishers who earned belt buckles. Dannis was less than 28 minutes behind women's winner Stephanie Howe of Bend, Ore. In other words, she was that close to winning one of the most prestigious ultra-marathons in the world. Second at Western States means Dannis is now ranked as one of the premier female ultra-marathoners in America.
For Goldman, who lists Newmarket as her home, it was not about racing, it was about endurance ... and endurance ... and endurance. A few months ago, Goldman decided to use her running as a tool for a cause. After witnessing a man suffer severe brain injury from a car accident, Goldman decided to raise money for the Brain Injury Association of America. While some run or walk a road race for causes like this, Goldman decided to do something just a little bit different. What did she do? In April, Goldman went out to San Francisco and started running East ... and running East ... and running East. Ninety-one days later, on July 15, Goldman completed her run in New York City, where she was greeted by close friends and family. The journey covered over 3,200 miles and, by Goldman's account, eight pairs of running shoes. She raised over $25,000 and, according to people who keep track of such things, was only the second female to run solo across the country.
MADISON'S Kirsch is an accomplished runner, especially when it comes to mountain running, but the pride and honor he has brought to New Hampshire running has nothing to do with his feet. It is about his heart.
All of New Hampshire has been rejoicing this past week at the safe return home of Conway teenager Abigail Hernandez. The details of her disappearance and return are not known but one thing is known: Kirsch was instrumental in keeping everyone aware of the situation. The Hernandez family are members of the White Mountain Milers running club and Kirsch is president of the club. Within weeks of Hernandez's disappearance, Kirsch organized a vigil then used social media outlets, like Facebook, to help in the search. Kirsch was among a few in the Conway region who were relentless in making sure Abby's disappearance was front and center in everyone's mind. When Abigail Hernandez was reunited with her family, the overwhelming joy was matched by overwhelming gratitude towards Kirsch and others for their efforts.
RUINNING SHORTS: Bow's Denise Sandahl continued a strong year with a win at the Bill Luti Five Miler in Concord on July 19. Concord's B.J. Smith was the men's winner. The father-daughter combo of Manchester's Mark and Casey Hecox have done it again. They were the male and female winners of the Give Peace A Tri sprint triathlon in Surry on July 19. It is not the first time the duo has shared the winner's circle. ... Speaking of repeat winners, Dover's Casey Carroll and Newfield's Melissa Murray, who have won a number of New Hampshire races this year, were the winners of the Pease 7K race on July 20.
Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org