Road race canceled

Heidi Caldwell of Craftsbury Common, Vt., left, and Brittni Hutton of Lubbock, Texas, cross the finish line together in the 2019 Mount Washington Road Race. The 2020 race has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (JOE VIGER PHOTO)

PINKHAM NOTCH — Officials from the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race have made the decision to cancel the 2020 race due to on-going concerns around COVID-19. In the midst of the pandemic, organizers could not confidently ensure the safety and well-being of runners, staff, volunteers and family members nor predict when federal and state social distancing guidelines, restrictions on large gatherings, travel and lodging would change. 

The decision did not come lightly as many people, businesses and organizations are affected. But, as the General Manager of the Mount Washington Auto Road, Howie Wemyss, said, “as runners, we’re all pretty well tuned into staying healthy and doing what’s right to take care of ourselves and our fellow runners, so as difficult as this first time ever cancelation is, we all know it’s the right thing to do given the circumstances of this pandemic."

He added: "Still, this is a heartbreaking step that we find necessary to take knowing how much this race means to people and how much has been involved.”

One of the hardest hit organizations will be the Coos County Family Health Clinic which has been providing vital health services to the very rural population they serve. Coos County Family Health has been the primary beneficiary of this historic race. Race organizers are heartened by Northeast Delta Dental’s sponsorship which will allow for a donation.

Tom Raffio, the CEO of Northeast Delta Dental and an annual runner of the road race, added, “Like the thousands of runners who participate each year, we’re disappointed that this year’s race must be cancelled. But we support that difficult decision, because race logistics are unable to ensure the safety and health of the participants, which is the most important consideration. We’re happy that some of our sponsorship dollars will still be donated to Coos County Family Dental, to support its work; and we’re looking forward to next year’s Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race!”

Thus, registered runners have three options: they can donate their 2020 registration fee to the Coos County Family Health Center, they can transfer registration to the June 19, 2021 race, for a small fee of $20, or they can request a refund and receive 75 percent of their fee back. Since the mountain is the star of this particular race, there will be no virtual race option.

The 60th anniversary race was stacking up to be a good one with many past champions on the men’s side returning after years away, including four-time winner and reigning World Mountain Running Champion Joe Gray. Last year’s co-winner on the women’s side Heidi Caldwell was set to return as well. The hope is that all will take care, keep running and training and return in 2021.

Sponsored by Northeast Delta Dental, the race ascends the Mt. Washington Auto Road from Pinkham Notch to the 6288-foot summit of Mount Washington. In addition to the unrelenting grade, runners face the added challenge of Mount Washington’s famously high winds, precipitation and unpredictable temperatures.

Prizes include $1,000 apiece for the first male and female finishers, smaller cash prizes for the next five men and women and the top three male and female masters (over 40), prizes for the first male and female finishers from New Hampshire and a $5,000 bonus for setting a new course record.

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