MOUNT WASHINGTON, N.H. (AP) — The 54th annual Run to the Clouds race on New Hampshire's Mount Washington was held Saturday, pitting more than 1,000 runners against one another and against the tallest peak in the Northeastern United States.
Here's what you need to know about the race:
The race starts at the bottom of the Mount Washington Auto Road and finishes 7.6 miles later near the summit of the 6,288-foot mountain, part of the Presidential Range in the White Mountains. Runners climb a lung-searing 4,650 feet.
MUST BE THE ALTITUDE
The men's and women's division winners this year hail from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Joe Gray captured the men's race, his first time breaking the tape after a second-place finish last year. Shannon Payne took the women's field.
To measure just how tough this race is, let's look at pace. This year's winner in the men's division covered the course in 59 minutes, 9 seconds. Compare that to the world record mile of 3:43.13 by Hicham El Guerrouj in 1999 or the 4:54 that Meb Keflezighi averaged over 26.2 miles in winning this year's Boston Marathon.
LOOKS LIKE IT HURTS
Dr. Kristine Karlson of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College says despite the daunting notion of running up a mountain, it's easier on the body, mostly on the quadriceps (thighs). They're being used the way they're supposed to, she says, contracting and getting shorter rather than contracting and stretching longer the way they do when running downhill. Racers won't burn any more calories going up since they'll be going at a slower pace. Once they hit a maximum heart rate, runners will burn the same amount of energy as they do in a flat race. One potential risk: hypothermia. Runners who feel warm at the bottom can get chilled in a hurry near the top even in the best weather conditions.
WITHER THE WEATHER?
The mountain is home to some of the most extreme weather on Earth and for a while held the record for the highest wind speed recorded: 231 mph in 1934. That's now No. 2 on the list. The mountain gets hurricane-force winds of at least 75 mph on more than 100 days each year. It gets an average of 256 inches of snow a year. This year, it was 61 degrees at the start and a frosty 36 at the summit with 20 to 35 mph winds that created a wind chill of 25 degrees. In 2002, the race was shortened to 3.8 miles because of howling winds and pounding freezing rain — the only time it was shortened by weather.
WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS?
Medical student George Foster first timed a run up Mount Washington in 1904, just to impress his friends. He finished in 1 hour, 42 minutes.
IT'S THE JOURNEY
Larisa Dannis, 26, of Manchester, New Hampshire, came in sixth this year. She trains the same as she would for a marathon — and she just ran a blazing 2:44 in Boston — or a 100-mile run. How does she get up that hill? "First, I always try to stay in the moment. Second, I really always try to maintain a positive outlook." And for those who say these runners are crazy, Dannis says: "I think things like this might seem crazy to some, but I'm the kind of person who really thrives on setting personal goals and meeting them."
It was rubber-match time for the brothers Freeman. Justin, 36, of New Hampton, New Hampshire, and Kris, 32, of Thornton, New Hampshire, each had beaten the other once, so this year was for bragging rights. Justin came out on top, finishing in ninth place, while Kris ended up 14th. Both lean on their cross-country ski background and training (Kris is a four-time Olympian.) to prepare for the Mount Washington run. Their dad, Donavon Freeman, chased the boys up the hill.
Runners from across the globe test themselves here: New Zealand's Derek Froude in 1990 was the first to crack 1 hour while Daniel Kihara of Kenya wrecked the field with a course record 58:20 in 1996. Another New Zealander, Jonathan Wyatt, holds the men's course record of 56:41 set in 2004. On the women's side, Shewarge Amare of Ethiopia set the course record in 1:08:21 in 2010, the first time she ran it.
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