It's not a sprint - Local athletes prep for this year's Boston Marathon


They say each journey begins with a single step. For those who have registered to run in the Boston Marathon, including some with ties to the Lakes Region, that first step will be followed by tens of thousands more.

Kara Irwin, who grew up in Laconia and graduated from Laconia High School in 2004, was athletic in high school but didn't pick up running until she became an adult. In 2013, she ran ran her first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., When she found out that her employer, the YMCA of Greater Boston, was fielding a team for the Boston Marathon, to be held this year on April 18, she was eager to join.

As part of the team, Irwin has a fund raising goal of $8,000, and Boston is likely to be more difficult than the Marine Corps marathon, she said. But, she's energized to tackle the challenge.

"Understanding the cause and the mission of the Y makes it easier," she said. She also has the assistant of the Boston YMCA's healthy living specialist coaching the team of runners. In her current training regimen, she has run up to 16.5 miles, and her longest planned training run is 22 miles.

In 2013, Irwin was among the spectators near the finish line when the Tsarnaev bothers set off two homemade bombs, killing three and injuring more than 200. She said she was about a half-block away from the first explosion, and saw the second bomb explode seconds later.

"We were on Boylston Street,  we ran through one of the restaurants there, across the Mass. Ave Bridge and kept running." For Irwin, experiencing the attack, as well as the subsequent pursuit of suspects and community response to the tragedy, provides motivation. "It was a scary experience, but it makes you feel proud of where you live, and proud to accomplish something like that."

The bombings are also a source of motivation for Rebecca Bagdigian, 22, who lives in Boston and is running to raise money for Camp Hale in Holderness. Bagdigian grew up in Stowe, Massachusetts, and said she always watched coverage of the marathon. She then moved to Boston and made it a point to observe the event in person.

"Then the bombings happened, and I wanted to be part of it," she said. In 2013, she would have been at the finish line, had she not overslept and missed her train. "It was pretty terrifying," she said.

Bagdigian is still living in Boston, where she is studying architecture at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. For the past two summers, she has worked as a camp counselor at Camp Hale, in Holderness, where she enjoys introducing young people to the natural world and challenging them to achieve things they didn't know they can do. She imagines that this summer, she can use her marathon run as inspiration.

"Listen, if I can run 26 miles, you can get to the top of this mountain," she said.

This will be Bagdigian's first full marathon – she has done two half marathons so far – and Sandy Woehr-Blouin said she will likely be hooked on the experience. Woehr-Blouin, 53, ran her first marathon when she was 49. Her first was the Philadelphia Marathon, she didn't run in 2013 for superstitious reasons, and this year's Boston Marathon will be her third consecutive running.

Woehr-Blouin, an Alton resident for nearly 30 years, had a rough time during her first Boston Marathon.

"At mile three, I got tripped." She fell and badly scraped her arms on the pavement. The pain from her arms was distracting enough that she was able to run the rest of the race without noticing that she had sprained her ankle – something she realized the following day. Still, she had to come back the next year.

"The people definitely bring you back, the crowd of people is just amazing," she said. Even last year, despite rain, the entire length of the course was filled with spectators, "people you don't even know are out there, cheering for you, it's amazing," she said. And then, after nearly four hours of running, the athletes turn onto Boylston Street for the final leg.

"For that last hundred feet, the crowd just roars, it gives you chills. It's a really cool thing."

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Judge denies Amy Lafond’s request for sentence reduction


LACONIA — A Belknap County Superior Court judge has denied a request to credit the woman who killed one teen and seriously injured another with 180 days toward her sentence for completing three life-skills classes while incarcerated.
Judge James O'Neill said he agreed with Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen who said the new law that would have credited Amy Lafond, 54, with the 180 days didn't go into effect until after she was sentenced for negligent homicide and second degree assault on May 29, 2014.
The Earned Time Credit law credits convicted felons with up to 180 days off a sentence if the inmate completes technical training, earns an associate's or bachelor's degree, engages in a family connections program and/or a mental health program. It became effective Sept. 9, 2014, and is intended to provide a reward for an inmate who tries to better himself or herself while incarcerated.
Guldbrandsen said in her objection that the sentences of 3 1/2 to 7 years for the negligent homicide and 3 to 7 years for the second-degree assault were the products of lengthy negotiations by her and Lafond's attorney Mark Sisti, and that if the law had been in effect when she was sentenced, it would have been taken it into consideration at that time.
She went on to say that the existing sentences were the "absolute minimum" that the state could impose in light of the crimes, the input from the victims' families, and the opinions of the Laconia Police.
Guldbrandsen said that she also contacted the families, who are very much against Lafond getting any reduced time.
Lafond pleaded guilty to killing Lilyanne Johnson and seriously injuring Allyssa Miner when she crossed a double line on Messer Street and struck the two as they were walking on the sidewalk.
Lafond is eligible for parole in September of 2019.

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DeVoy raps county convention’s fund balance move as ‘gimmick’


LACONIA — Belknap County Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said the county convention's 11-4 vote on Tuesday night to use an additional $600,000 from the county's fund balance to pay off existing debt is a "gimmick" which poses a threat to the county's long-term financial viability.
"'The money to pay the debt is already in the budget we proposed which holds the line on taxes. So what this is is an attempt to lower the tax rate without regard to what happens next year. We have to look at this from a long-term perspective about what's best for the county, not only today, but in the years ahead." said DeVoy.
But Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton), who proposed increasing the amount of the fund balance to be used to reduce the amount to be raised by taxes from $1.7 million to $2.3 million, said that is an appropriate use of the current fund balance
"We're at $4.3 million for a fund balance now, which is $600,000 more than was projected last year. It's a way of reducing taxes without putting pressure on the fund balance" said Gallagher.
Coupled with a $150,000 increase in anticipated pro share revenues for the nursing home, which the convention also approved, the amount of money to be raised by taxes in the convention's proposed budget is $12,956,223, about $880,000 less than the $13,837,714 proposed by the commission.
But DeVoy maintains that the fund balance could be put to better use in the near future by applying part of it to reduce the cost of an $8 million bond issue for a community corrections facility. He said that the approach he is recommending is obtaining a bond anticipation note of about $4 million to fund the project on a piecemeal basis in 2016 and waiting until the following year before floating a bond, which he anticipates would result in a savings to the county on interest costs.
Gallagher said the commission has chosen not to follow the approach recommended by the convention when it approved the the $8 million bond issue in November of using the fund balance to pay down current bond issue costs and obtaining a bond early this year.
"They've talked about different methods but haven't approved a plan. It appears that the county would be paying interest costs twice on the same money, once for the bond anticipation note and then for the bond itself," said Gallagher.

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