Written by Paul Kirsch. A note from Paul – “This race is always a highlight of my Summer. Mount Washington is storied event and it’s an honor to work with the elite athletes who come from around the world to compete. I wanted to write up a little more about the field than fits in a press release or social media post, so here goes.”
The 59th running of the 7.6 mile, 4200′ climb Mount Washington Road Race takes place this Saturday June 15th and the elite fields could tell a very different story than years past. Due to a variety of reasons – injuries, life commitments and other race commitments, some of the top athletes who are past winners are not able to compete. This leaves us with a wide open field for both the men and women’s races.
The article includes some great in-race photos courtesy of the official race photographer, Joe Viger as well photos from the US Mountain Running Team, courtesy of Richard Bolt. Joe has taken some iconic photos of mountain runners, including this killer picture of Matt Byrne and Simon Gutierrez battling it out on the 22% grade “Wall” just before the race finish. Enjoy!
So how does this year’s field stack up? Let’s take a look at the men’s side first…
Men’s Elite Field:
There’s one exception to that list of recent race winners unable to make it – that’s Eric Blake (pictured, top of page). He’s a three time winner and finished a close second to Italy’s Cesare Maestri last year. As recently as 2016 he ran sub-1 hour, a feat very few runners has accomplished. No one in the field knows the course better than Blake either and he’s patient in his race strategy. Yes, Blake is 40, but he’s as fit as ever, coming off a win at last weekend’s Ascutney Mountain Race in Vermont where he ran the 4th fastest time in race history. Ascutney is exactly half of Washington, same grade, same paved surface. Eric’s nickname is quadzilla and he can climb better than just about anyone.
Lee Berube of Syracuse, NY is a seven-time collegiate all-American who finished fourth in the 2018 Mt. Washington race and then narrowly missed making the US Mountain Running Team at the Loon Mountain Race just a few weeks later – and he was just over a minute ahead of Blake there. Nothing helps like experience on the course at Washington (unless your name is Jonathan Wyatt, who set the course record his first time) so Berube could be even stronger this year. He’s coming off of a win at the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships last weekend as well.
Continuing the tradition of Italian runners competing at the rockpile, will be Nadir Cavagna. His mountain and road racing stats are very impressive. Last year he was 12th at the World Mountain Running Championships and has a long history competing for Italian teams, going back to his years as part of their Junior Mountain Running Team as well. Combine that with PR’s of 14:19 for 5km, 29:57 for 10km and 64:35 half marathon, he has the well rounded combination of climbing skills and speed that typically excels at Washington. We will see if Cavagna can extend the Italian winning streak to two years.
Another newcomer to the race is Kenyan Francis Kamiri. He is currently living and training in Alabama. He no mountain race experience to speak of but his road times are quite impressive. They include a 29:47 at the Birmingham Wine 10km in March and a 47:59 at the Beaufort 10 Miler in South Carolina. His time there was good enough to set the state record for 10 miles and he beat legendary runner Ben Bruce of Flagstaff by over two minutes. Road running speed doesn’t always translate to climbing speed on the 12% average grade of the Auto Road so it will be interesting to see how Kamiri can translate that speed into climbing power and also deal with what looks to be a pretty cold race day forecast for the higher summits.
Matt Lipsey, from Harrisburg, PA finished 7th last year and continues to rise in the ranks of Northeastern mountain runners with some impressive finishes. He has won the 7 Sisters Trail Race in Amherst, MA (a mountain race by most standards) the last two years. He has also dominated at many others in the wilds of Pennsylvania on courses that make the trails in New Hampshire’s White Mountains seem smooth in comparison. No matter how he does in the race, Lipsey has by far the most entertaining Instagram account of any of this year’s competitors.
There are also some really strong New Englanders competing who have a chance of being on the podium, including Patrick Rich (South Hamilton, MA), Brandon Newbould (Nottingham, NH) and Scott Mindell (Burlington, MA). Rich is 42 and ran a 1:12:30 last year. Newbould was not in last year’s race but ran a 1:08:47 in 2017. He’s got a lot of experience on the mountain and with his Alaskan heritage, a little cold weather and wind above tree line won’t impact his day. Mindell is a phenomenal road runner who has dabbled in some mountain and trail running in the last few years. He comes into Washington with a 2:22 personal best in the marathon. He has the endurance and fitness to be among the leaders this year at Washington.
Men’s Masters and Seniors:
At the top of the Masters race is Blake. He may win the race outright and has a shot at the Mt Washington Masters record too, which is currently held by Simon Gutierrez in a time of 1:01:34.
Behind Blake, the battle could be between Patrick Rich and Todd Callaghan of Beverly, MA. Todd is 49, but he’s still running like he’s 29 and sits atop the USATF-NE Mountain Circuit standings. He ran a 1:14:30 last year and has a good shot at cracking the top 10 on Saturday. Also look for the LaRosa brothers, Paul (Newburyport, MA) and Mark (North Andover, MA). They both run for the Boston Athletic Association (BAA). Paul ran 1:14:31 just behind Todd, while his brother ran 1:15:14.
In New England, mountain runners get older but don’t really seem to get much slower. That’s evident in the standings of the USATF New England Mountain Running Circuit and in recent results at Mount Washington in the very competitive 50+ divisions.
At the top of the list of senior runners is three time race winner and nude high pointer, Dave Dunham. Dave literally wrote the book on this race, “Only One Hill” and his stats keeping is as legendary as his racing prowess. You can read chapter 4 from Dave’s book on this website. Dunham finished 11th last year in a time of 1:14:24 and should be right back there again in 2019.
His senior competition includes some New England regulars including Central Mass Striders (CMS) teammate Erik Vandendries, who finished in 1:15:20 and acidotic RACING’s Jim Boule, who came in at 1:18:03 last year and has been impressing everyone with his results this year in the USATF-NE Mountain Circuit.
The unknown Senior addition to this year’s race is 58 year old Håkan Eriksson from Sweden. Håkan has some impressive senior results, including winning last year’s M55 age division at the European Cross Country Championship in Madrid as well as setting three Swedish records in the M55 category: 3000m track – 9.28, 5000m track -16.09 and and 10 km road – 33.40.
Women’s Elite Field:
Heidi Caldwell reached out to us three days before last year’s Mount Washington Road Race to see if she could enter. She finished in second place with an impressive debut time of 1:14:55. Caldwell is the Running Director for Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont and was an Ivy League standout for Brown University. This past fall, she ran a 1:13 half marathon in Newburyport, MA to show real leg speed on top of her obvious climbing strength. I am excited to see how Heidi will do this year with more course knowledge.
A first time participant for this year is 2018 Cross Country Skiing Olympian, Caitlin Patterson, also out of Craftsbury Common, VT. Patterson’s primary sport may be skiing but she showed her mountain running strength when she qualified for the US Mountain Running Team in 2017 at the Cranmore Mountain Race in North Conway, NH. She went on to be part of the Gold Medal winning US women’s team at the World Mountain Running Championships in 2017. Caitlin came back to win Cranmore in 2018 as well as strong finishes at the Broken Arrow Skyrace. Last weekend she was 2nd at the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships in Scranton, PA. While most of Patterson’s mountain racing has been on trails, her power and endurance from skiing will serve her well on the never ending grind of the Auto Road. With the chance of colder temps this year, that can only help her as well.
Merrimack, New Hampshire runner Kassandra Marin made her debut at Washington with an impressive 1:17:13 finish and aims to land on the podium this year. Marin really dove into short mountain running last Summer when she won the USATF-NE Mountain Running Circuit while she continued to excel at long road and trail distances. Marin was 4th this year at the 60km Georgia Death Race and finished 4th at the USATF 50 km Trail Championships at the Ragged 50k last summer. Marin isn’t afraid to push the pace in a race and it will be interesting to see what she does this year on the rockpile now that she has more course knowledge.
Italian runner Gaia Colli will be making her Mount Washington debut this year and looks to be in the mix of the leaders. She’s the first Italian woman to come compete since Valentina Belotti raced in 2014. Colli is only 20 but has experience in both the mountains and on road and track. She had an impressive 9th place finish last year at the Junior World Mountain Running Championships in Andorra on a very tough course and has personal bests of 17:29 in the 5 km and 36:24 in the 10 km.
2016 US Mountain Running Team Member Kim Nedeau of Leverett, MA is back this year and is coming off a strong win at the Wachusett Mountain Race on Memorial Day weekend. Nedeau first turned heads in the mountain running world with her 1:13:51 time at Washington in 2016, finishing second and then going on to finish as top American at the World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria. Nedeau had some injury struggles the last two years with slower finishes at Washington but I fully expect her to be in the mix again this year. She is a strong runner who is also smart, which could be a factor this year with so many new athletes in the field.
Lubbock, Texas runner Brittni Hutton will be making her debut this year at Washington. Hutton qualified for the 2020 Olympic Trials last Summer at Grandma’s Marathon with a 2:41:31 on the same day of last year’s Mount Washington Road Race. Hutton was an NCAA All American for Oakland University as well. Without a lot of mountain racing experience, I am looking forward to seeing how she does at this year’s race.
Meagan Boucher, another Vermont runner (St. Johnsbury), is also an Olympic Trials marathoner with her 2:42 time at this past fall’s Baystate Marathon. She has raced against Caldwell before, finishing second to Caldwell at the Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon in Hampton Beach, NH. Caldwell is a testament that road runners can do well in the mountains so Boucher has a lot of potential to perform well at Washington.
One of the most versatile of the elite runners in this year’s race is Amber Ferreira of Concord, NH. She is a professional triathlete who has also competed at the World Snowshoe Championships and countless road races around New England. Amber’s triathlon strength serves her well at Washington, where she has finished as high as fifth place. She ran a 1:21:43 last year.
Regina Randazza of Gloucester, MA has had a very successful career at Mount Washington and is coming in to this year’s race with a strong training block focused specifically on Mount Washington. Regina is a phenomenal climber and was the second masters at last year’s US Mountain Running Championships at Loon Mountain. She ran a 1:25:22 last year at Washington.
The top masters runner at last year’s US Championships was Christin Doneski of Hopkinton, NH. She is back this year at Washington and should make for a close race with Randazza. Doneski last ran Washington in 2016 and finished in 1:26:30. Both Randazza and Doneski have a chance of being in the overall top 10 of the race.
Dawn Roberts of Springfield, MA had a great race last year at Washington with a 1:28:08, cutting four minutes off of her time from the previous year. She’s a long time competitor at the race and is also a very strong cyclist, which often translates well at Washington.
If you google the name Ann Sorenson you might notice that she comes up in the results at the German Wikipedia page. That’s because Ann had a very successful career competing in Summer Biathlon including being the US Champion in 1999. Summer and Winter Biathlon have a big following in Germany. Ann is also the sister of mountain runner Laura Haefeli, a former Mount Washington winner. Sorenson is from Bozeman, Montana and finished in 1:34:01 in her Mount Washington debut.
Sorenson’s competition includes 56 year old Catherine Lifschultz of Redondo Beach, CA who finished last year in 1:35:40 and 60 year old Donna Smyers of Adamant, VT who finished in 1:36:09.
The 90-99 Age Division:
No article about this year’s Mount Washington field would be complete without mentioning its oldest competitor; George Etzweiler of State College, PA. George is 99 years old and started running 50 years ago at the age of 49. has already completed the Mount Washington Road Race 13 times, the first time at the age of 69. Every race he still wears the shorts his wife Mary bought him when he first started running. She passed away in 2010 but he still runs with her in his memories. Check out the documentary that was made about George in 1997.
About the Author: Paul Kirsch is the Elite Athlete Liaison for the Mount Washington Road Race and is a 16 time finisher of the race. When he isn’t helping with this race, he spends his spare time co-directing other mountain races in New England for acidotic RACING, helping out with the US Mountain Running Team, or trail running with his dogs so he can post pictures of them on Instagram @pkrunswithdogs. He and his wife and two kids live in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley.
About the Photographer: Joe Viger is a leading mountain, ultra, trail photographer located in NH. He has been the official photographer of the Mount Washington Road Race for several years and is a strong supporter of US Mountain Running and American Trail Running Association (ATRA) single-track corporate member. You can see more of his work on this website, at joeviger.com, on Facebook @joevigerphotography and on instagram @joevigerphoto.