Mt. Washington Road race marks 50th anniversary

Updated: June 18, 2010, 1:41 PM ET
Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. -- Bob Hodge has won the grueling Mount Washington Road Race seven times. His most vivid memory is of the one he lost -- by 1 second.

All of Hodge's wins were behind him when he faced Dave Dunham in 1989. The two ran side by side all the way up the 7.6-mile road to the 6,288-foot summit of the Northeast's highest peak when Dunham, who had won the previous year, made an offer.

"Near the top, Dave asked me whether we should tie, because we had had this effort with each other the whole way. And though I appreciated him making that gesture, I said, 'No, no, let's go for it.' And he got the jump on me and he won the race," Hodge said.

The 54-year-old runner from Clinton, Mass., will be among more than 1,000 runners competing Saturday in the race's 50th running. On Friday, he and three others were inducted into the event's new Hall of Fame.

The all-uphill race, which gains 4,727 feet in elevation, was first held in 1936, then dropped during World War II. It resumed in 1961, and after a three-year break, has been run continuously since 1966.

This year, the race is the sole selection race for the U.S. Mountain Running Team, with the top six American male and top four American female finishers going on to compete in the World Mountain Running Championships in Slovenia in September.

For Hodge, a law librarian at Suffolk University, Mount Washington was his way of kicking off an intense summer of training.

"It's very tough and beautiful running up here," he said.

Hodge was just out of high school when he ran his first race in 1974, a day when organizers considered canceling because of rain and 60 mph winds. He won each year from 1976-1980 and again in 1985 and 1987. His 1989 loss was the race's closest finish ever.

His advice to first-time runners? Relax, and enjoy it.

"The worst thing you can do is get too uptight about it," he said.

But runners do need to know what they're getting into, he said.

"If you have absolutely no concept of Mount Washington, then you've made a mistake."

Also being inducted into the Hall of Fame:

-Anna Pichrtova, a six-time winner from the Czech Republic and former World Mountain Running Champion;

-the late Gary Crossan, a New Hampshire native who won four times;

-the late Fred Norris, an English coal miner who came the United States on a track scholarship and won the race in 1962, at 40.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

ESPN TOP HEADLINES