The Mount Washington Auto Road in New Hampshire is so steep that drivers get a bumper stick that reads “This car climb Mount Washington.”
Now, imagine ascending the tallest mountain, which climbs at an average grade of 12 per cent by road, in the northeastern United States by foot. At Saturday’s Mount Washington Road Race, George Etzweiler was the final finisher to cross the line of the historic mountain race in northern New Hampshire, covering the 12.2K route in 4:05:29.
Etzweiler, a member of the race’s hall of fame, is 97. The former Penn State University engineering professor completed the gruelling mountain road race for the 12th time, according to the Centre Daily Times, bettering his own age record, which he set in 2016 at 96. He holds the race’s 85-89, 90-94 and 95-99 course records. Etzweiler is the only runner older than 88 to have finished the race from the base of the mountain to the summit.
Race organizers waive two restrictions for Etzweiler, according to the Centre Daily Times. He does not need to go through the race’s random selection lottery to gain entry to the race – he receives an invitation from organizers – and the 3:05 time cut-off does not apply to the 97-year-old from State College, Pa. Etzweiler, as he has in previous years, completed the race with his grandson Bob.
Throughout the 12.2K course, the average climb is 12 per cent. There are multiple lengths of 18 per cent sustained climbs and the final 45m is at 22 per cent steepness. Etzweiler said that he wants to complete the race in 2020, when he reaches 100.
Joe Gray was the only runner to break the one-hour mark on course, winning the 2017 Mount Washington Road Race in 58:58. Shannon Payne won the women’s race in 1:11:22. There were 1,048 finishers according to the results posted on Cool Running.