KIHARA, PICHRTOVA WIN MT. WASHINGTON ROAD RACE IN EXTREME HOT WEATHER. FRAM BREAKS 1962 MASTERS RECORD.
Photo album page 2 courtesy of Richard Bolt
Photo album page 3 courtesy of Kev Molloy
Pinkham Notch, N.H. - June 16 -
Daniel Kihara of Kenya and Anna Pichrtova of the Czech Republic withstood unusually high temperatures and a strong field of challengers today as they won the 41st Mt. Washington Road Race in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Locally, the biggest buzz was for 42-year-old Craig Fram of Plaistow, New Hampshire, who broke the oldest record in the books -- the men's masters course record that had stood here since 1962 -- and for Joan Benoit Samuelson, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist, now 44 years old, who finished second to Pichrtova.
Defending champion Kihara trailed two newcomers, German Fernandez of Colombia and Janko Bensa of Yugoslavia, for the first two miles, but the experienced Kenyan moved ahead smoothly while the other two fell off the pace, humbled by the hot weather and the steepness of the Mount Washington Auto Road, which gains 4650 feet of altitude in 7.65 miles. Having set the existing course record (58 minutes 21 seconds) in 1996, the 33-year-old Kihara won this time in one hour six seconds (1:00:06).
Kihara said he might have broken the one-hour barrier for the fourth time in as many tries if it had not been for the weather. "It's too hot!" were his first words after finishing, and he repeated that sentence several times as he sat in the shade and sipped water. Temperatures at the base of the auto road were in the mid-80s, and at the summit the temperature was a near-record 64 degrees by the time Kihara finished. More commonly, base temperature is in the low 70s and summit temperatures are rarely above 50.
Pichrtova won handily in her first appearance at this all-uphill race, pulling away from the other women in the first mile and running steadily to the 6288-foot summit in one hour 13 minutes 48 seconds. That time was four minutes faster than last year's winner, Alice Muriithi of Kenya, but three minutes slower than the course record 1:10:09 set by Magdalena Thorsell of Sweden in 1998.
"I should have done more altitude training for this race," said Pichrtova, who currently lives in Waynesboro, Virginia. "My legs were perfect but I couldn't breathe well."
Fram turned in an inspiring performance, running most of the race with his longtime New England friends and rivals Dave Dunham, 37, of Bradford, Massachusetts, and Eric Morse, 36, of Berlin, Vermont. Fram eventually finished third, nine seconds behind Dunham and half a minute ahead of Morse. His time, 1:04:29, was 28 seconds faster than the 1:04:57 run by the legendary Fred Norris, an English coal-miner who won the 1962 Mt. Washington race at the age of 40.
"It helps to have someone running with you," said Fram, who was momentarily doubled over after the grueling climb but recovered quickly. "In a race like this, you have to stay in contention, keep your focus. I always had (the record) in mind, but in these hot conditions I was worried the second half would be too slow. I knew I had (the record) about ten seconds before the finish. I could see the clock, and I knew I had it."
Pichrtova's strongest competition was Samuelson, who drove over from Freeport, Maine, in time for the race, then drove home again in time for her children's afternoon soccer games. Samuelson finished in 1:16:47, just 44 seconds slower than the master's course record she set here in 1997, her only other appearance at Mt. Washington.
"I didn't remember the hill being so steep at the bottom," said Samuelson this year. "In the woods it was like a greenhouse effect, and when I got above the treeline I was afraid I was going to get hypothermia."
"What makes people do this race?" she continued, deadpan. "It's insane to do it twice!"
Sponsored by Northeast Delta Dental, the race awarded $750 apiece in prizes to Kihara and Pichrtova for first place, but the big prize went to Fram. He collected the $4100 bonus -- $100 for each year the race has been held -- awarded by New England Runner magazine for breaking the master's record, plus another $300 for third place, $250 for first master and $100 as the first New Hampshire finisher.
Samuelson won $500 for second place and $250 as first master. First New Hampshire woman was Joselle Germano of Dover. Germano, 27, a University of New Hampshire graduate student in molecular biology, placed 13th in a time of 1:30:41.
Other prizes: Dunham $500, Morse $200, Dan Verrington, of Bradford MA, $100 for fifth place in a time of 1:08:42. Also $300 to Cathy Pearce of Socorro, New Mexico, who was 3rd in 1:20:02; $200 to Nikki Kimball of Elizabethtown NY, 4th in 1:20:11; and $100 to Suzy West of Putney, Vermont, 5th in 1:24:20.