Mt. Washington Road Race History
Credit for the first timed run up Mt. Washington goes to George Foster, who performed the feat in 1904 when he was a medical student, to impress his friends. He completed the climb in 1:42 -- faster than any automobile had ever made the trip. In 1936 some of Dr. Foster's friends organized a Mt. Washington road race in his honor. Twelve runners finished that year. The race was held again in 1937 and 1938, with larger fields each time.
During the war years the race was forgotten, but it was held again in 1961 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Mt. Washington Carriage Road. Boston Marathon champion John J. Kelley won that year, beating 78 other runners. In 1962, 40- year-old former coal miner Fred Norris won in the stunning time of 1:04:57, which still stands as the masters' record.
After a 3-year hiatus the race resumed in 1966 and has been run annually since. In 1972 Charlotte Lettis became the first official female finisher, leading the way for the subsequent winners including Martha Rockwell, Christine Maisto, Peg Donovan, Jacqueline Gareau (the only other Boston Marathon champion besides Kelley to win at Mt. Washington) and J'ne Day-Lucore, who in 1992 set the womon's course record of 1:11:45.5. Other outstanding male runners have included Mike Gallagher, who won the race four years in a row (1968-71); the late Gary Crossan, also a four time winner; Bob Hodge, who proved himself king of this mountain seven times between 1976 and 1987; Dave Dunham, who set a course record in 1988, came back in 1989 to outsprint Hodge by 1.5 seconds, and then, after finishing second three times and third once, won again in 1994; New Zealand's Derek Froude, who in unusually good weather in 1990 became the first person to run up the 7.6-mile Mt. Washington Auto Road in under one hour, clocking 59:17; and Matt Carpenter of Colorado Springs, who beat Froude and Dunham in 1992, then defended his title in 1993 with the second sub-one-hour performance -- 59:50:, and two Kenyan champions, Gideon Mutisya of Kenya in 1995 and, in an awe-inspiring demonstration of hill-running, Daniel Kihara, who in 1996 demolished the field with a record time of 58:20.05. In 1997 two Granite Staters won, Craig Fram of Plaistow and Cathy O'brien of Durham, while 1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Samuelson set a new masters record of 1:16:03. The 1998 race was won by Matt Carpenter again while Swede Magdalena Thorsell broke the women's record with a blazing 1:10:08.2
The race in 1999 saw 10 individual age group and 5 team records established in near-perfect conditions. Up front, three time winner Matt Carpenter of Colorado dueled course record holder Daniel Kihara of Kenya to the fastest 1-2 finish in the race's history. Kihara won in 59:03 with Carpenter just 13 seconds back. Barbara Remmers, NY, lowered her '98 third place debut time by over eight minutes to win in 1:13:52.
The race has grown steadily in popularity, thanks to its reputation and to the generous support of its sponsors, Northeast Delta Dental and Distribution Services of America. The field for 2001 will be 1100 runners, with an equal number of would-be entrants turned away. Entrants are chosen by lottery except that places are reserved for former winners, the previous year's medalists and trophy and cash winners, winning team members, and elite runners.