Mountain Running Flashback: New England Mountain Running Circuit

20 year ago today, Bradford, Massachusetts resident Dave Dunham (pictured above at the 1999 Mt Wachusett Mountain Race) proposed a making a series of mountain running races to USA Track & Field’s New England association.

At the time USATF-NE organized very successful road racing and cross country circuits – called “Grand Prix” – but didn’t have any sanctioned competition opportunities for mountain, ultra or trail runners.

Dave in 1994 at a mountain race in Kitzbuhel, Austria.

Dave in 1994 at a mountain race in Kitzbuhel, Austria.

In 1996 Dave was a veteran of several World Mountain Running Trophy races including his silver medal finish at the 1993 event in Gap, France. Looking to replicate a series of domestic mountain races like those he’d run in Europe, Dave found a willing partner in USATF-NE as well as the race directors of those inaugural circuit events. The biggest incentive for runners to participate was Dave’s inclusion of 5 lottery bypass slots for American’s most historic mountain race – the Mt. Washington Road Race – first run in 1936.  This 7.6 mile race climbs 4200′ and is the event that many mountain circuit runners train for.

The text of Dave’s original proposal:

Proposal for a New England Mountain Running Circuit

I have spoken to various race directors about the possibility of having a Mountain running circuit in New England. The 3 races I have approached are, Mt Kearsarge, Mt Wachusett, and Pack Monadnock. All have expressed an interest in being part of a Mountain running circuit.

The Mt Kearsarge race is an 8.5 mile race featuring some flat and downhill along with some difficult climbing. The race had a very successful first year in 1995. The race will take place on May 11th in Warner NH.

The Mt Wachusett race is a 4.3 mile race which also has some flat and downhill sections along with a tough opening one mile climb. The Wachusett race has been run in the past and 1996 will mark its third year in a row since being revived. The race will take place on May 25th in Princeton MA.

The Pack Monadnock race is a 10 mile race which features some challenging hills in the first 5 miles and some climbs as steep as Mt Washington in the last mile. The race is in its fifth year and will be run on June 2nd.

I envision the circuit as a chance for all levels of Mountain runners to compete at various distances over various types of climbs. I would hope that by having a circuit with some prizes we would encourage increased participation in these events. I also hope to attract some of the regions better mountain runners by having the circuit be part of the selection process for the USA Mountain running team for the World Championships. I hope this will foster greater competition and larger fields.

As such, I would like to request funding from USA T&F New England, and help with promotion of this circuit. On the promotion side, I would like to have NE USATF mention in the “Exchange Zone” newsletter that the circuit will be taking place. Give the dates and locations of each race, along with the race director’s phone numbers, and mention that prizes will be awarded. I have spoken to Bob Teschek of the Granite State Race Services and he has kindly offered five lottery bypasses to the 1997 Mt Washington road race to be raffled off amongst those who participate in all three events. I would like to request funding to purchase these bypasses in order to give them out as free entries. As mentioned the criteria for being in the raffle would be running in all three races. I would also like to request some funding for some sort of award/prize for the top finishers in the circuit (perhaps a T-shirt) or perhaps something for all who complete the three races.

The cost for the Mt Washington entries would be $100, and the cost for the other awards/prizes would be $150. An additional cost for mailing of these awards would also be incurred. 

– Dave Dunham

Here are results form those first 3 races in the 1996 USATF New England Mountain Running Circuit. Dave won all 3 races and went on to finish 2nd at the Mt. Washington Road Race behind Daniel Kihara who set a new course record.

May 11, 1996 – Mt Kearsarge Race (8.5 miles, 2931’ of climb) – Full Results.

May 25, 1996 – Mt Wachusett Race (4.3 miles, 1095’ of climb) – Full Results.

June 2, 1996 – Pack Monadnock 10 Miler (Temple Mountain)(10 miles, 2200′ of climb) – Full Results.

Here’s a photo of about 20 of the 37 folks who ran all 3 races in the inaugural circuit in 1996.

The class of 1996 "Mountain Goats".

The class of 1996 “Mountain Goats”.

In this photo from the 1996 Mt. Wachusett race, Dave (#810, 1st, 24:35) leads Mike Casner (#306, 2nd, 25:35) and ATRA’s own Richard Bolt (3rd, 25:40).

Dave Dunham leads Mike Casner and Richard Bolt.

Dave Dunham leads Mike Casner and Richard Bolt.

20 years later, the 2016 USATF New England Mountain Running Circuit start on May 15 with the Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race and features 8 events. Learn more about this years circuit on the USATF-NE website.