By Dave Wagner
When he was laboring away nearly a quarter of a century ago for the Portales High track team, no one could have guessed Bob Harmon Jr. would eventually qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Harmon, though, plans to run to marathoning’s major event on April 18 after qualifying for the 26.2-mile race with a time of 3 hours, 19 minutes, 42 seconds on Jan. 9 in the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Phoenix.
He said he needed time of 3 hours, 20 minutes or better to qualify for Boston.
It was just the third marathon for the 41-year-old Harmon, a 1981 PHS graduate. He has filled out the necessary paperwork to enter the event, and plans to leave for Boston on April 15.
“It’s really exciting,” said Harmon, who now lives in Los Alamos and works at the Los Alamos National Bank. “Qualifying was probably the hardest part. Now I get to go and enjoy (the race).”
Jim Love, the PHS head track coach when Harmon was in school, said he wouldn’t have envisioned him running a marathon at the time.
“He never really had that much success (at the high school level),” Love said. “He just got a lot of self-satisfaction by running.
“He was a real quiet guy who worked hard. I wouldn’t have thought (at the time) that he would have been a marathon runner.”
Harmon said he took up long-distance running only a few years ago “for health reasons, because I sit at a desk a lot.”
His previous two marathons were in 2003, about four months apart, with times of around 3:45 at Scottsdale, Ariz., and around 3:30 at Seattle.
That got him thinking about trying to meet the Boston qualifying time.
“I started out running shorter races, like 5Ks and 10Ks and half-marathons,” Harmon said. “I kind of worked my way up to it.
“I was going to try to qualify last February (2004), but I had to have surgery on my foot. That delayed things for about a year.”
In high school, he competed primarily in the 800 and 1,600, although he occasionally ran the 3,200, former PHS assistant track coach Jack Willis said.
“He was a very tenacious young runner,” Willis said. “He worked hard at it and had pretty good stamina, but he never was real fast.”
Love said Harmon ability didn’t stand out, but he did whatever he could to help the team score points.
“I’m so happy he qualified for that,” Love said. “It’s quite an honor.”
Harmon said his goal at Boston is to simply try to improve his time again.
“It’s just my nature to want to run it faster than I have before,” he said. “But I know it’ll be hard.”
His wife, Ronda, is a 1984 PHS graduate. They have a daughter, Kayci, 14.