Last weekend I conquered Mount Washington Road Race, which has long been on my bucket list. This well-organized, unusual race did not disappoint; I would highly recommend it to folks that are up for its challenges.
While only 7.6 miles long, the route’s average incline is 12%, and peak incline is 22%. There are no breaks from the incline at any points in the race — the mountain road goes up and up and up. There are stickers for cars that take on the challenge of climbing the route of this race. Of course I had to run it.
The mountain, highest on the East Coast, and the car sticker. The race goes right up to the top of the mountain from the base camp and the starting gate shown in the photo.
Training for this race, and running it, are unusual experiences. You’d think that the challenge in training would be building up leg strength, while it is actually fine-tuning cardio conditioning. 12% grades are tough. At such inclines, the heart has to work hard to simply walk, let alone run. And the race itself is an experience in endurance physical and mental, with its’ changing weather, gusting winds, and the mental brutality of the relentless incline. It is a tough race; finishing it feels like a genuine accomplishment one can be truly proud of.
We got lucky with the weather on race day. Mount Washington is knows as the place with the world’s worst weather, but the weather gods were nice to the runners this year: it was sunny, clear, and warm, affording us stunning views throughout. We also got lucky with the wind direction: the toughest section of the race, the miserable lonely exposed mile just before the final stretch, was with mountain-top-strong, over 40 miles per hour, tailwind. It was the closest I ever came to feeling like I am flying. It was nice of the mountain to cheer us on like that.
Runners near the very top of the mountain:
Me near the finish line (the one in the bright blue hat). The incline is 22%.