USA Mountain Running Championship Set for June 19 at Mt. Washington
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
USA Track & Field
Gutierrez Goes for Three-Peat; World Mt. Champion Jonathan Wyatt Expected
PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. - (May 17, 2004) - Simon Gutierrez, of Taos, New Mexico and Anna Pichrtova of the Czech Republic will return to New Hampshire's White Mountains on Saturday, June 19 to defend their overall titles at the 44th Mt. Washington Road Race. Gutierrez, who trains in the high altitudes of northern New Mexico, and Pichrtova, who lives part of the year in Virginia but is currently training in Europe, will face especially competitive fields because this year's Mt. Washington race also serves as the USA Track & Field (USATF) Mountain Running National Championship.
Sponsored by Northeast Delta Dental, the annual "Run To The Clouds" brings 1,000 runners, most chosen by lottery from an applicant pool of nearly twice that number, to the starting line at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road, for a race that ascends 4,650 vertical feet in 7.6 miles at an average grade of 11.5 percent. The summit, 6,288 feet above sea level, is often beset by the windiest and most unpredictable weather in the world.
The 31-year-old Pichrtova has run this all-uphill race three times and won handily each time. On a hot day in 2001, she stunned fellow competitors by the ease with which she handled the climb, then came back a year later to win again in weather so icy, windy and wet that race organizers were forced to shorten the race to half the usual distance - the only time in the race's history that such a precaution has been necessary. Last year, in better conditions, Pichrtova once again ran away from the field, finishing in one hour 12 minutes 50 seconds - a minute better than her first year, and the fifth-fastest time recorded by a woman on this course. (The women's course record is 1:10:09, set in 1998 by Magdalena Thorsell of Sweden, Simon Gutierrez's wife.)
Gutierrez, 38, first ran Mt. Washington in 1998, finishing third, and in 1999 he finished fifth. After missing the race in 2000, he came back in 2002 extremely well-prepared and ran away from the strongest New England mountain runners in the field, as well as course record-holder Daniel Kihara of Kenya, to win on the weather-shortened course. Determined to prove that he was ready to win at the full distance, Gutierrez returned in 2003 and overtook veteran Kenyan speedster Andrew Masai in the final three miles to win again, in a time of 1:02:54. (His best time for the race was 1:01:38, in 1999. The course record is Kihara's time of 58:21, set in 1996.) Currently Gutierrez is training at altitudes of 7,000-8,000 feet above sea level, with occasional long workouts ascending to 10,500 feet above sea level.
The field this year includes not only the usual cadre of highly experienced New England runners (Craig Fram of Plaistow, N.H., Eric Morse of Berlin, Vt., Dave Dunham of Bradford, Mass. and others) but also a larger-than-usual number of top mountain runners from around the country and abroad. One of these is Jonathan Wyatt of New Zealand, a two-time World Mountain Running Champion whose victories have both come on all-uphill courses, including a victory last year in Girdwood, Alaska, where he beat his nearest competition by four minutes. Wyatt hopes to follow in the steps of his friend and fellow Kiwi Derek Froude, who in 1990 became the first person to finish the Mt. Washington race in less than one hour. (The only other besides Kihara, who accomplished the feat three times, is Matt Carpenter of Manitou Springs, Colo.)
Other top mountain runners this year include several members of last year's Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team: Paul Low of Amherst, Mass., who placed fourth at Mt. Washington in 2002, won the USATF New England Mountain Championship last year at Northfield Mountain, and was U.S. Mountain Runner of the Year; Peter De La Cerda of Alamosa, Colo., winner of the 2003 Vail Hill Climb and Bill Raitter of Estes Park, Colo., winner of the 2003 Aleyska Mountain race in Alaska. Joining them will be ultra-endurance runner Michael Wardian of Arlington, Va., who was the first U.S. finisher in the 2000 Marathon des Sables in the Moroccan desert and in the 2001 Himalayan 100-Mile race in India.
The women's field includes U.S. National Mountain Running Team members Kelli Lusk of Amherst, Mass., winner of last year's Northfield Mountain Trail Race in Massachusetts; Nikki Kimball of Elizabethtown, N.Y., who finished second to Pichrtova at Mt. Washington in 2003; Anita Ortiz of Eagle, Colo., the USATF 2003 Mountain Runner of the Year (profiled in this year's June issue of Runner's World magazine) and Kari di Stefano of Telluride, Colo., last year's USATF Masters Mountain Runner of the Year.
Once again, New England Runner magazine is offering $2000 for any masters (i.e., 40 years of age or older) runner who can break the existing course record. The women's masters course record is 1:16:03, set by Joan Benoit Samuelson in 1997.
The men's masters record, one of the race's best-known stories, is 1:03:27 set last year by Craig Fram in an electrifying performance in which he overtook Andrew Masai on the upper slopes of the mountain. The record Fram broke last year was in fact the one he had set two years earlier, a time of 1:04:38. That time broke the previous record, 1:04:57, set by Fred Norris in 1962 (that's not a typo).
Further updates will be provided during the next month. For a complete list of entrants, visit the race website at www.gsrs.com.
Sponsor: NORTHEAST DELTA DENTAL Masters record sponsor: NEW ENGLAND RUNNER Associate sponsor: BRIDGTON ACADEMY
Records: Men's open - Daniel Kihara, Kenya, 1996, 58:21 Women's open - Magdalena Thorsell, Albuquerque, NM, and Sweden, 1998, 1:10:09 Men's masters - Craig Fram, Plaistow, NH, 2003, 1:03:27 Women's masters - Joan Benoit Samuelson, Freeport, ME, 1997, 1:16:03
Race director: Bob Teschek, (603) 863-2537, firstname.lastname@example.org Press and elite athletes liaison: John Stifler (413) 585-0924, email@example.com