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For a Merrimack Valley High School student, a very long road home

  • Surrounded by family and friends, Brandon Richardson (left), accepts a sparkler from his father Mark Richardson while celebrating on the state border with Massachusetts south of Hudson after finishing his four-day run across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Surrounded by family and friends, Brandon Richardson (left), accepts a sparkler from his father Mark Richardson while celebrating on the state border with Massachusetts south of Hudson after finishing his four-day run across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson (right), runs through Manchester with cross-country teammates Raquel Gelinas and Walker John on his fourth day of running across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson (right), runs through Manchester with cross-country teammates Raquel Gelinas and Walker John on his fourth day of running across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson stops to hydrate on River Road, west of Ashland, on the third evening of his run across New Hampshire on November 17, 2013. Richardson is a senior at Merrimack Valley High School and ran 215 miles from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson stops to hydrate on River Road, west of Ashland, on the third evening of his run across New Hampshire on November 17, 2013. Richardson is a senior at Merrimack Valley High School and ran 215 miles from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson leans on his father Mark Richardson while getting a back rub from Sue Kilgas in Manchester on his fourth day of running on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson leans on his father Mark Richardson while getting a back rub from Sue Kilgas in Manchester on his fourth day of running on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson runs along River Road, west of Ashland, about 165 miles into his run across New Hampshire on November 17, 2013. Richardson is a senior at Merrimack Valley High School and ran 215 miles from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson runs along River Road, west of Ashland, about 165 miles into his run across New Hampshire on November 17, 2013. Richardson is a senior at Merrimack Valley High School and ran 215 miles from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson, watched by his mother Tricia and younger brother Nathan, changes shoes in Manchester, revealing blisters on his feet after three and a half days of running. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson, watched by his mother Tricia and younger brother Nathan, changes shoes in Manchester, revealing blisters on his feet after three and a half days of running. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson changes shoes in Manchester, revealing blisters on his feet after three and a half days of running on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson changes shoes in Manchester, revealing blisters on his feet after three and a half days of running on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson gets a walking start after a short rest in Manchester on day four of his run. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson gets a walking start after a short rest in Manchester on day four of his run. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson stopped to refuel at a grocery store in Manchester on day four of his run. Richardson, a senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson stopped to refuel at a grocery store in Manchester on day four of his run. Richardson, a senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson, resting in his family's vehicle, stopped to refuel at a grocery store in Manchester on day four of his run. Richardson, a senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson, resting in his family's vehicle, stopped to refuel at a grocery store in Manchester on day four of his run. Richardson, a senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson (center), walks across Queen City Bridge in Manchester with cross-country teammates Raquel Gelinas and Walker John on his fourth day of running across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson (center), walks across Queen City Bridge in Manchester with cross-country teammates Raquel Gelinas and Walker John on his fourth day of running across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson (right) and Kristal Snowden of Franklin are lit by a camera flash while posing for friends and family on the Massachusetts state border after Richardson finished running across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles in four days to raise money for Kristal's son James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson (right) and Kristal Snowden of Franklin are lit by a camera flash while posing for friends and family on the Massachusetts state border after Richardson finished running across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles in four days to raise money for Kristal's son James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson prepares to cross the state border in Hudson after finishing his four-day run across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson prepares to cross the state border in Hudson after finishing his four-day run across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Richardson runs along River Road, west of Ashland, about 165 miles into his run across New Hampshire on November 17, 2013. Richardson is a senior at Merrimack Valley High School and ran 215 miles from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Brandon Richardson runs along River Road, west of Ashland, about 165 miles into his run across New Hampshire on November 17, 2013. Richardson is a senior at Merrimack Valley High School and ran 215 miles from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Surrounded by family and friends, Brandon Richardson (left), accepts a sparkler from his father Mark Richardson while celebrating on the state border with Massachusetts south of Hudson after finishing his four-day run across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson (right), runs through Manchester with cross-country teammates Raquel Gelinas and Walker John on his fourth day of running across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson stops to hydrate on River Road, west of Ashland, on the third evening of his run across New Hampshire on November 17, 2013. Richardson is a senior at Merrimack Valley High School and ran 215 miles from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson leans on his father Mark Richardson while getting a back rub from Sue Kilgas in Manchester on his fourth day of running on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson runs along River Road, west of Ashland, about 165 miles into his run across New Hampshire on November 17, 2013. Richardson is a senior at Merrimack Valley High School and ran 215 miles from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson, watched by his mother Tricia and younger brother Nathan, changes shoes in Manchester, revealing blisters on his feet after three and a half days of running. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson changes shoes in Manchester, revealing blisters on his feet after three and a half days of running on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson gets a walking start after a short rest in Manchester on day four of his run. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson stopped to refuel at a grocery store in Manchester on day four of his run. Richardson, a senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson, resting in his family's vehicle, stopped to refuel at a grocery store in Manchester on day four of his run. Richardson, a senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson (center), walks across Queen City Bridge in Manchester with cross-country teammates Raquel Gelinas and Walker John on his fourth day of running across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles across New Hampshire in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson (right) and Kristal Snowden of Franklin are lit by a camera flash while posing for friends and family on the Massachusetts state border after Richardson finished running across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, ran 215 miles in four days to raise money for Kristal's son James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson prepares to cross the state border in Hudson after finishing his four-day run across New Hampshire on November 18, 2013. A senior at Merrimack Valley High School, Richardson ran 215 miles in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Brandon Richardson runs along River Road, west of Ashland, about 165 miles into his run across New Hampshire on November 17, 2013. Richardson is a senior at Merrimack Valley High School and ran 215 miles from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border in four days to raise money for James Snowden, a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

Fighting pre-run jitters that he couldn’t conquer the distance, and running through pain that forced him to walk for hours and wonder whether his fears had been justified, Brandon Richardson completed his goal last night, covering 215 miles in 3½ days to raise money for a Franklin boy with cerebral palsy.

Richardson, who hoofed it from the Canadian border to the New Hampshire-Massachusetts line in Hudson, raised nearly $10,000 for 6-year-old James Snowden as part of his senior project at Merrimack Valley High School.

He completed his run last night at 10:10 at Ayottes Stateline market, which sits on the border connecting the two states.

Richardson, three of his teammates from his high school cross country team and their coach, Dave Irving, appeared on Route 3A just past 10, their head lamps cutting through the cold darkness.

They were greeted by a few dozen supporters, including Richardson’s parents, Mark and Tina, James Snowden’s mother, Kristal, his grandparents and a great grandmother.

Kristal’s husband, Jimmy, stayed at home with their son, who doesn’t speak and is susceptible to seizures caused by loud noises.

The group lit sparklers and rang cowbells as the runners crossed the New Hampshire state line, completing Richardson’s mission.

The Merrimack Valley senior ran with a limp at the end, a sign of the grueling task.

The temperature had dropped noticeably by 9 last night, with the American flag in the parking lot rippling from a strong wind.

“My feet are fine, my knees are okay, but my muscles are fed up,” Richardson said moments after he finished.

Richardson, wiry and toned at 5-foot-7, 135 pounds, hoped to finish in three days, but he ran into trouble after a smooth start.

He went 60 miles Friday, with some hip pain, from the Canadian border to a motel in Lancaster. Then Saturday he stopped at another motel, this one in Lincoln.

And then his left knee began to ache. The cause, Richardson believes, was a slope on the side of Route 3, his main route during the run,

that pushed his leg awkwardly inward, mile after mile, totaling about 150.

The pain forced Richardson to walk, limp and run gingerly to Plymouth, covering the length of a marathon, about 26 miles.

“I had a hard time running on it,” Richardson said during a lunchtime break yesterday at Concord’s South End McDonald’s. “I really didn’t know if I was going to make it. I didn’t know if my knee was blown or what. I didn’t know what was wrong with it.”

Ten miles later, Richardson had to remove his socks and running shoes to pop blisters with a knife given to him by his father, who rode nearby the entire way.

Running with Richardson were Merrimack Valley High co-captains Brendan Polichronopoulos and Keegan Hanks, their teammate Walker John, plus Irving.

Irving has played a big role in Richardson’s development as a runner, once surprising him at Mile 6 during Richardson’s first marathon three years ago in Hyannis, Mass.

The bond between the two grew stronger through Richardson’s high school career, with the coach injecting his pupil with confidence.

He ran 80 miles with Richardson since Friday morning, more than any other supporter.

“I wanted to be a little part of it,” Irving said at the end. “I didn’t want to just sit back.”

Irving first showed up in Plymouth, when Richardson’s knee still hurt, and reassured him that everything was okay.

“Once the coach came and gave me the good news, that we didn’t think it was blown out, it boosted my morale a bit,” Richardson said earlier yesterday. “I started running again. The first mile and half was tough and sore, but once we smoothed it all out, we started running very quickly. Low eight-minute miles.”

Richardson’s parents shadowed their son the entire trip, using their pickup truck as a storage facility, with coolers of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, water, apples and power drinks at the ready.

Mark Richardson, who’s competed in half marathons, knew what his son was feeling in the Plymouth area and knew what to tell him.

“I told him he had to pretty much run through it and it would go away,” Mark said. “I’ve experienced it; you push yourself. He’s just not used to being in pain, because everything came so easy for him. He’s just gifted like that.”

So inspired was Richardson after hearing from his coach and father, so utterly re-energized after 26 miles of pain in 7½ hours, that he ran past Plymouth and didn’t stop until he got to Franklin High on Sunday night at 9, covering, he said, an additional 35 miles in an hour less than his morning ordeal.

There, he was met by about 15 people, including Jimmy Snowden, the father of the little boy with cerebral palsy whose needs include a special van, a special smoke detector and medication, all of which are expensive.

“I still can’t believe this is real, even though he’s doing it,” Kristal Snowden said while waiting for Richardson in the market parking lot last night. “How many kids that are his age think of others like he’s doing? Very mature.”

Richardson said he’s disappointed his run is over. He saw 1½ feet of snow in Canada, deer in Colebrook and a porcupine in Strafford County.

He also said he has more strength than he ever knew, and it had nothing to do with muscles.

“An ultra marathon is starting to change me as a runner and my mentality on everything,” Richardson said during his McDonald’s break. “From the first day, it’s so crazy waking up, seeing the sun rising and continuing to run as the sun sets.”

When it was over, he added, “I don’t know what to do now. Guess I’ll go home.”

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

Legacy Comments1

What an inspiration Brandon is! May he recover quickly and heal well.

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