PINKHAM NOTCH — You can’t beat Mother Nature.
For just the second time in the storied 61-year history of the Mount Washington Road Race, officials had to shorten the race to the halfway point on the Mt. Washington Auto Road on Saturday.
Known as the home of the world’s worst weather, Mount Washington showed one and all that June can be a winter month on the summit, with sustained wind gusts of 75 to 85 miles per hour on the summit while temperatures plummeted to the low 20s. Mount Washington Observatory staff referred to it as “June-uary” weather as 2 inches of snow fell and 4 inches of rime ice coated everything in its path.
The race was shortened from 7.6 to 3.8 miles, but the runners put their best foot forward and it turned out to be a record-setting day in many ways. Kim Dobson, 38, of Eagle, Colo., set the win record for women runners and moved into a tie with Bob Hodge for the most wins at Mount Washington all-time at seven.
Joe Gray, 38, of Colorado Springs, Colo., won his sixth straight Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race, taking top honors overall, while he and Dobson both left Pinkham Notch with $5,000 checks for breaking the course record for 3.8 miles.
This year’s race saw just shy of 900 runners finish, crossing the makeshift finish line to gusty wind, rain and temperatures in the 30s with a windchill much closer to 20 degrees.
The race has only been shortened to halfway twice in its 61-year-history. The first was in 2002, and then again on Saturday.
The decision to shorten the race was made early on Friday night following discussions with the Mount Washington Observatory.
“This weekend we are predicted to experience some of the worst weather for mid-June that the road has seen in recent years, and your safety is a priority,” officials posted.
Dobson equaled the all-time win mark of seven Mount Washington titles set by Bob Hodge of Clinton, Mass. Hodge won the race five years in a row (1976-80), and also won it in 1985 and 1987.
Dobson led almost from wire to wire, winning in 31:56, placing 10th overall. By the 1-mile mark, Dobson had the lead, and at 2 miles she was well on her way to standing alone in the record books. She beat the old “halfway” course record of 32:32 set by Anna Pichrtova in 2002, and passed the Czechoslovakian’s six-win total, too.
“Seventh time running Mt. Washington Road Race, just can’t resist this awesome race,” Dobson posted to Instagram after winning. “Although this year’s course was shortened due to extreme weather, my goals remained the same: give it my all, run my own race, stay positive and enjoy the gift of running … then see where I land.”
Gray won the race by 55 seconds in a blazing 27:43, topping the previous halfway mark of 28:02 set by Simon Gutierrez.
“I've been here before but for some reason, this brought back memories of my second time ever running up this rock pile,” Gray shared on his Facebook page. “In 2009, I came out for my second time with big expectations. I finished atop Mount Washington with the experience of defeat by a large margin. I thought I'd never return. The race staff, sponsors Delta Dental and my Northeast family have made this a staple in my annual racing, and today I sit atop this mountain once again — reflecting on my six consecutive victories at this race, of which I had every intention of never returning to, once upon a time.
He added: “Weather was crazy so today we only got a chance to challenge the course to the halfway point. I was pumped the event didn't get canceled so the shortening of the course wasn't as disappointing considering the day could have ended with no race at all! Cold and wet by the finish but my heart is full of joy in the ‘Live Free, or Die’ State.”
Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier Everett Hackett, 32, of Hartford, Conn., finished second in his first Mount Washington Road Race in 28:50. Eric Blake, 43, of West Hartford, Conn., was third in 29:12, marking his 15th top-three finish.
Rounding out the top five men were Lee Berube, 31, of Syracuse, N.Y., fourth in 29:28; and Samuel Fazioli, 30, of Derry finished in fifth for the second straight year with a time of 30:31. Fazioli won the Crossan Cup for the second straight year as the first finisher from the state of New Hampshire.
For the women, Amber Ferreira, 40, of Concord was second in 34:32. Ferreira also wins the Crossan Cup as New Hampshire’s top finisher. Taking third was Kim Nedeau, 42, of Leverett, Mass., 35:26; followed by Caitlin Patterson, 32, of Portland, Maine, 35:30; and Jess Elliot, 25, of Lyme, 36:41.
The first Mount Washington Road Race was held in 1936. Only nine runners competed. There was no event from 1939-60, and then no race from 1963-65. It had been held every year since except in 2020 when it was canceled due to COVID-19. Last year, as a precaution due to the pandemic, the men and women raced on separate days.