It took four hours, and he only stopped to fuel with tea and lemonade.
A parade of cars filed down the mountain, finally set free after runners battled 4,650 feet of elevation gain over 7.3 miles for the Mount Washington Road Race in New Hampshire this past Saturday. This was three hours after the start of the race at 9 a.m., and few competitors were left on the course. The vehicles meandered slowly, with drivers pumping the breaks down the steep incline.
The cars’ occupants often cheered on runners as they passed, but when they found 98-year-old George Etzweiler pulling up the rear in his yellow wind breaker and stomach high shorts, they came to a full stop. Most took pictures, beeped their horns, and hooted and hollered one common message.
“You’re an inspiration, George!” people shouted.
This is Etzweiler’s 13th time completing the Mount Washington Road Race. He’s a celebrity at this point. People ask to take their pictures with him, chat, and just stare in awe at the unstoppable old man from State College, Pennsylvania.
When the race started, Etzweiler went out in the front of the pack but was quickly passed by the large crowd of runners. With two of his trainers from Ki’netik Fitness, the gym where Etzweiler trains three times a week, and his grandson Bob, they ascended the mountain at a consistent pace all the way up, only stopping to drink lemonade and tea because sports drinks don’t agree with his stomach.
About a mile up, Bob checked in to make sure George had everything. “You forgot my wheelchair,” Etzweiler responded. Up the mountain, he was in good spirits. He wasn’t very talkative, but when he had something to say it usually involved a humorous quip.
“How are you feeling?” one spectator asked.
“Dead,” Etzweiler responded.
Each mile became tougher, and he huffed and puffed up the steep road. He struggled around mile-five above the tree line and even more when 40 mph winds caused him to stumble a few times.
About three hours in, cars filled with finishers began descending the mountain, and that’s when Etzweiler received the traffic jam of applause.
At the peak, he powered through the final climb and was greeted by his two great grandchildren, who walked him to the finish line. Etzeweiler’s time was 4:04:48, a minute faster than last year.
Back at the bottom, he was greeted by more fans and received two more medals, one for winning his age group (he’s the only one in the 90-plus division) and one for the fastest age-graded masters time. The race announcer was emotional as he congratulated George, who was met with a minute-long standing ovation as he took the stage.
“How are you doing, George?” the announcer said.
“What was that?” Etzweiler repsonded. “My hearing isn’t keeping up with my running.”
The crowd laughed.
“You made a promise, and you keep delivering on that promise that you’re going to keep trying, right?”
“I’ll try,” he said.
With the race in the bag, George celebrated with a nap and spent Sunday and Monday hiking the mountains with his family in New Hampshire.
2018 Mount Washington Road Race, New Hampshire, 98-year-old, George Etzweiler, Andrew Dawson, Runner’s World, inspirational, Ki’netik Fitness, Berta DeDonato,