Written by John Stifler for the Mount Washington Road Race. Photos by American Trail Running Association corporate member Joe Viger Photography.
The Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race today witnessed the first tie in its 59-year history, as Brittni Hutton, of Lubbock, Texas, and Heidi Caldwell, of Craftsbury Common, Vermont, hit the finish-line tape in the same instant, in one hour 16 minutes 17 seconds. Forty-year-old Eric Blake of West Hartford, Connecticut, won the men’s top prize in this race to Mt. Washington’s 6288-foot summit for the fourth time, finishing in 1:02:52, a minute ahead of Francis Kamiri of Kenya.
Listed as a resident of Lubbock but mostly living in her van as she travels to competitions, Hutton, 29, was seeing the ultra-steep Mt. Washington Auto Road for the first time. Taking the lead at the start, she ran alone for most of the race and was leading Caldwell by half a minute with the mountain’s 6288-foot summit in her sights. Caldwell, however, a two-time Ivy League 5000-meter champion on the track at Brown University, used her speed to catch Hutton at the foot of the 22 percent grade in the final 50 yards.
“I had no idea she was that close until she was right there behind me,” said Hutton, herself a former all-American at Oakland University in Michigan. “I saw her, and it was like lightning struck. I told myself I could do it.”
She did – but so did Caldwell. The computer chip reading showed both women finishing in the same time, and a review of photos confirmed the tie. Kim Nedeau, 39, of Leverett, Massachusetts, who had run much of the way with Caldwell, hung on strongly for third, clocking 1:16:49. Behind her in fourth was Kassandra Marin, 29, of Merrimack, N.H., in 1:18:54.
Kamiri, 32, currently training in Birmingham, Alabama, went out quickly at the start and passed the one-mile mark in 6:41, a fast pace for this 7.6-mile all-uphill race. Blake followed ten seconds behind Kamiri and just ahead of Lee Berube, 28, of Syracuse, N.Y., and Nadir Cavagna, 24, of San Pellegrino, Italy. By three miles Kamiri was feeling a stitch in his side, and Blake moved ahead. He had no close challenger after the midway point in the race, where runners reach the treeline and face Mt. Washington’s famously strong and unpredictable winds and cold air. The summit temperature as he finished was 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
“I went out slow today,” said Blake, who won this race in 2006, 2008 and 2013 and was runner-up last year. “I wanted to be smart. I thought if (Kamiri) could run 61 minutes he could win. When I passed him, he didn’t give up, and you never count someone like that out.” Still, Blake was uncatchable. Kamiri, who like Hutton was seeing Mt. Washington for the first time, gave a thumbs up to spectators on the upper slopes as he held his pace and took the runner-up prize in 1:03:51. “I will come back next year,” he said later.
Berube, who finished fourth here last year, and Cavagna, a Mt. Washington first-timer, traded places back and forth for five miles of the race before Berube passed Cavagna for the last time and ran on to third place in 1:05:44. Cavagna, fourth in 1:06:30, was well ahead of Nick Aguila, 29, of Manchester, N.H., who reached the summit in 1:09:41. Aguila and Kassandra Marin won the Crossan Cup, awarded to the top male and female finishers from New Hampshire.
“It was a good Crossan Cup race today!” said Aguila, who beat Brandon Newbould, 37, of Nottingham (sixth in 1:09:53). Last year, Newbould won the cup while Aguila was close behind him.
Sponsored by Northeast Delta Dental, the race awards $1000 apiece to the first male and female finishers, $500 for second place, smaller cash prizes for the next four men and women and the top three male and female masters (over 40), and prizes for the Crossan Cup winners. This year, Caldwell and Hutton will each get $1000.
Complete race results will be posted on the Mount Washington race website.
Please see the official Mount Washington Road Race photo galleries at Joe Viger’s website.