Dobson and Gray Take Down Records at Mt. Baldy Run-to-the-Top

The 57th edition of the Mt. Baldy Run-to-the-Top will go down in history as the most competitive race of all-time because not one, but two, decades-old records were broken in a span of 10 minutes and 25 seconds. The motivation: a $3,000 course record premium for both male and female participants if they broke the long-standing course records. This prize purse attracted some of the best mountain runners in the country and they put on a show from the start at 6,300 feet to the summit of Mt. Baldy—officially named Mt. San Antonio—at 10,064 feet. The participants included numerous US Mountain Running Team members, Mt. Washington record holders, Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon Champions (and one course record holder), a Dipsea Race winner, Golden Trail Series and Broken Arrow Skyrace Champions, just to name a few accolades.

Mt. Baldy Run-to-the-Top is a classic, 7.1-mile uphill mountain race with approximately 4,000 feet of vertical gain, held every year on Labor Day in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California and it is a different kind of monster. The men’s record was set in 1987 by then 26-year-old Matt Ebiner, who is still very involved in the race—as an emcee for the awards ceremony—and completes the race himself on most years. His legendary time was set at 1:00:49 and held for an impressive three and a half decades until Joseph Gray, Colorado Springs, CO, the 21-time National Champion just back from a race tour in Europe, took on the talented field to lower the record by 21 seconds. Gray—a HOKA and ATRA-member GO Sleeves athlete—came into the race feeling a little sluggish, stating, “I woke up feeling a little off two days before and on race day just didn’t feel that great with breathing.” Although not feeling 100%, he continued, “After seeing the course I figured I could break 60 [minutes].”

Photo: Peter Maksimow.

The reason Gray was feeling off may not have been the altitude—he lives at 6,000 feet elevation—but more likely something that every athlete dreads going into a race: Covid-19. “I found I have COVID so that might explain why the breathing was off. Thought it was initially just allergies as I was back in CO for a few days,” said Gray. His next race is the Pikes Peak Ascent, which doubles as the Golden Trail World Series supported by Salomon.

As an extreme heat wave was hitting Southern California, the temperatures topped out at 104 in Claremont, CA, the portal of entry to the Mt. Baldy region. The temperatures were more mild on the race course, but Gray insisted, “The heat definitely made the run tougher as once we got up past the mile we were exposed and it was hot.”

Perhaps the most spectacular performance of the day belonged to Kim Dobson of Eagle, CO, fittingly nicknamed “Queen of Uphill” for good reason. Dobson is a past US Trail Team member, 8-time Pikes Peak Ascent/Marathon champion and Ascent record holder, 7-time Mt. Washington Road Race champion, among many other wins and outstanding performances.

Photo: Peter Maksimow.

The women’s course record was established 34 years ago by the 11-year-old phenom, Carrie Garritson, who set another historic standard of 1:15:32. “I came to Mt. Baldy enticed by the goal of sub-1:15, but mostly I wanted to run as fast as possible for me,” said Dobson. Not only did she do that, but she absolutely annihilated the record by almost five minutes! “Being unfamiliar with the course,” Dobson stated, “I wasn’t sure what was realistic, so when I popped up on the summit and saw the clock at 1:10:xx, I was super pumped!”

Earlier this summer at the Mt. Washington Road Race in New Hampshire, Dobson and Gray had a carbon copy of their performances at Mt. Baldy, by both winning in dominant fashion and also claiming course records–and healthy prize purse–for the weather-shortened course.

Janelle Lincks of Thornton, CO, winner of the 2021 Broken Arrow 52K champion and Golden Trail National Series Grand Finale  and also an inov-8 ambassador, came within 12 seconds of the 34-year-old course record of Garritson, however, she was still almost five minutes off the very strong performance of Dobson. With her 1:15:43, Lincks ran the third fastest time in race history, just two seconds faster than past US Mountain Running Team qualifier Shannon Payne’s winning time in 2017. Payne also won in 2021–albeit with a time six minutes slower–and once Dobson uploaded her Strava data from the race, Payne received a high volume of notifications that her 2021 segment records and QOMs had been taken down by the Queen of Uphill herself. It was a total of 25 segments and QOMs to be exact. You can always rely on those Strava notifications to ruin your day!

Photo: Peter Maksimow.

Lincks, who is a gardener by trade, thoroughly enjoyed the race and also the flora and fauna of the Mt. Baldy region, stating, “There were some really nice views of the desert and running up from where the yucca grow through the pines and then above tree line was a treat….the bristlecone pines were super cool, they must be hundreds of years old.” Not only was she enthralled by the surroundings, Lincks got the opportunity to race one of her idols, saying, “It was really cool getting to see one of my biggest trail running idols race though. I had hoped to stay with Kim but couldn’t keep up! She is something else. And super kind!” Lincks added, “I loved the course!”

Like Gray, Lincks experienced difficulty breathing saying, “Typically I can really get into the groove with those and I had moments of finding a meditative rhythm but it was a hard day for me…I was struggling pretty hard to breathe.”

Taking third place in the women’s race was accomplished mountain and ultra runner Jade Belzberg, Sedona, AZ, in a time of 1:21:44, a time which would have put her on the top of the podium in most of the previous years.

The stellar men’s field of mountain runners included Chad Hall, San Diego, CA—runner up to Gray at the 2021 Pikes Peak Ascent behind Gray coming off a recent 1:05:13 road half marathon win, Eric Blake, Hartford, CT, the multiple-time Mt. Washington winner and US Mountain Team member as well as a past Pikes Peak Ascent champion—nicknamed Quadzilla for his incredibly robust quadriceps muscles, Eddie Owens, San Francisco, CA, the 2022 Dipsea Champion (without a handicap) and Team US Mountain Running Team member, and a local from Ridgecrest, CA, Christian Schultz, mixing up the top contenders with a third place finish in 1:03:24.

Photo: Peter Maksimow.

Perennial mountain and trail running athlete, Eric Blake described the course as, “A constant steady climb with no real relief until you cross the finish line. It had a similar feel as a Mt. Washington but of course it wasn’t on the road. Both are classic mountain races.” He continued by saying, “Racing up Mt. Baldy was such a good experience! I really enjoyed taking part in the historic race and plan to come back!

In the men’s race, Hall took the early lead from the start on the dramatic, paved downhill road section which makes up the first quarter mile of the course. “So the craziest part about Mt. Baldy Run-to-the-Top is that you start the first third of a mile down a ridiculously steep gradient. I was joking to myself in my head that my strategy would be to win it in the first 400 meters. Ironically, I found myself in the lead as we hit the incline. Joe caught me about a mile into the race but I surprisingly found myself with a gap a few minutes later. Ultimately, Joe caught and surged by me shortly thereafter as I found myself needing to ease the effort back. I was happy to battle back into second on the steeper slopes towards the summit.” Hall ran the third fastest time in race history with a 1:01:30, good for second place behind Gray.

Like Hall, Lincks took advantage of the downhill start, saying, “The beginning was really unique, bombing it down that steep road was a fun way to start.”

Photo: Peter Maksimow.

Dobson, on the other hand, took the antithetical approach to her race start, stating, “I knew that Janelle and several other women would start out faster than me on the quarter mile screamer descent. My plan was to get through that section and slowly pick up the effort. I was surprised at what a huge gap those gals put on me in such a short distance! Lol! Once we hit the uphill dirt road, I started to push the effort and caught the lead woman, Janelle, between mile 1 and 2. We ran side by side for several minutes until I slowly pulled away. My plan was to push the smooth uphill miles but save something to really get to work when the grade kicked it up at mile 4.”

The heat did not seem to negatively affect Dobson as much as Gray, who came to SoCal early on a family vacation with her husband and two young boys. “Those first 4 miles were warm but not too bad (and quite cool compared to the temps in the city!). I loved the last 3 miles of the course. Lots of steep terrain, some rocks, some smooth, and even little bits of of downhill/flats. It felt like a proper mountain finish! I looked at my watch a couple times in the race but mostly ran by effort and gave it my all!” she stated. Adding, “The mountains in SoCal were impressive! The elevation relief from the edge of the city is quite dramatic. Similar to Colorado, the mountains were steep and craggy, but with more desert like vegetation. I loved the Mt Baldy Run-to-the-Top course!”

Photo: Peter Maksimow.

Hall concurred with Dobson saying, “The course was amazing.” However, quickly reflecting on his race strategy, “Looking back I wish I would have pushed harder to stay with Joe in the middle. It was actually strange how shifting to the steeper gradients on the back half seemed to help me recover from the early efforts. That coupled with some short downhills left me feeling like I had too much left in the tank at the end of the race.” Hall will get a rematch at this weekend’s Pikes Peak Ascent when they will again go head-to-head in a deep, European-fortified race field. Dobson will also be racing, hoping to extend her winning streak on America’s Mountain. Perhaps more course records will fall!

Read Tayte Pollmann’s Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon Elite Field Preview

Mt. Baldy Race Results


  1. Kim Dobson, Eagle, CO – 1:10:54 (New CR)
  2. Janelle Lincks, Thornton, CO – 1:15:43
  3. Jade Belzberg, Sedona, AZ – 1:21:44


  1. Joseph Gray, Colorado Springs, CO – 1:00:28 (New CR)
  2. Chad Hall, San Diego, CA – 1:01:30
  3. Christian Schultz, Ridgecrest, CA – 1:03:24

Full Results