TWO New Hampshire races in a recent three-day span provided a road-racing contrast you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
On Thursday night, June 13, the Hollis Fast 5K lived up to its name. Two days later, more than 1,000 runners took part in the Mount Washington Road Race, aka the "Run to the Clouds."
This wasn't the first time the Hollis Fast and Mount Washington races were two days apart, but there was a new wrinkle. For the first time, the Hollis race was run as part of the New England Grand Prix, a series in which teams as well as individuals compete for top regional honors in various divisions. Being part of the series guaranteed the Fast 5K its fastest field ever.
The race is run on a point-to-point course that slopes gradually downward. Its net drop in elevation is so great, it isn't eligible for USA Track and Field Association records. Annually considered one of the fastest 5Ks in America. this year it may have been the fastest in New Hampshire history.
The winners, Tim Ritchie of Boston and former University of New Hampshire runner Erica Jesseman of Scarborough, Maine, ran the second-fastest men's and women's 5K times ever recorded in the Granite State. Ritchie finished in 13 minutes 48 seconds, two seconds slower than the standard set by Nate Jenkins of North Andover, Mass., when he won the Hollis Fast in 2007. Jesseman finished in 15:31, three seconds off the mark Olympian Lynn Jennings, then of Newmarket, established in winning Concord's Bud Light Couples 5K in 1993.
Despite rainy conditions, Ritchie's and Jesseman's weren't the only fast times in the Hollis Fast. Twenty-two runners finished under 15 minutes, breaking the old record of 10 set in the 2009 Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K in Manchester. And behind those fleet 22 were plenty of other speedy runners, as close to 500 finished faster than a 7-minutes-per-mile pace.
The pace was more than a bit slower in Gorham less than two days later.
The engineers who laid out the route of the Mount Washington Auto Road in the 1850s came up with something unique. Unlike most mountain roads, which tend to undulate as they make their way toward the summit, the Mount Washington road goes up ... and up ... and up for 7.6 miles. Thus, two days after the Hollis Fast 5K provided New Hampshire with its fastest race, runners endured the Granite State's slowest race. High winds in the final couple of miles, including gusts of 60 mph, guaranteed that.
Even though this year's Mount Washington Road Race was neither part of a series nor a championship event, it attracted some of the country's top mountain runners.
In the end, Eric Blake of New Britain, Conn., won in 59:57, joining a handful of runners who have broken one hour at Mount Washington. His winning pace: 7:57.
How slow is that compared to a "normal" course? In 2006, Blake set the world record for a marathon run on a treadmill, 2:21:40. That's 5:25 per mile for 26.2 miles.
On the women's side, Laura Haefeli of Del Norte, Colo., won in 1:18:05, the slowest winning time for a woman since the early 1990s. At 45, Haefeli became the oldest winner in the 53 years of the race.
Two New Hampshire runners scored impressive finishes in the Hollis Fast and on the Auto Road. New Hampton's Justin Freeman had a pair of top-10s, ninth at Hollis and eighth at Mount Washington, where he was the top New Hampshire finisher. Nottingham's Brandon Newbould, the top New Hampshire runner in this year's Boston Marathon, placed in the top 25 in both events.
All in all, it was quite a three-day stretch on the New Hampshire road-race scene.
IF THE Hollis Fast 5K is the fastest 5K in the Granite State, then the Hinckley Allen Manchester Mile is the fastest race of its distance. Two years ago, the winning time for the inaugural race was 3:43 for the men and 4:14 for the women, two of the fastest miles ever run on American terrain.
The runner who recorded that men's time - Lowell, Mass., native and former University of Connecticut All-American Brian Gagnon - will be back in the Queen City Wednesday night for the third running of the Manchester Mile. The race will be preceded by a 5K, with both races starting atop Manchester's Bridge St. hill at Derryfield Park and finishing one mile west at Pulaski Park.
The 5K is set to start at 7 p.m., followed by the signature mile an hour later. Runners may want to stick around the Manchester's fireworks display, scheduled for later that night.
Online registration fees for participants 12 and older are $15 for the 1-mile, $25 for the 5K, or $30 for both races. Thanks to support from Student Transportation of America, children 11 and younger can participate in either event for free. Race-day registration is available for an additional $5 at Derryfield Park starting at 5 p.m. More information is available at MillenniumRunning.com.
RUNNING SHORTS: Keep your eyes on Keely Maguire, who just graduated from the University of New Hampshire, where she was female student-athlete of the year. She has run three road races since graduating and has been top woman in all three. Two of the wins were in New Hampshire, the RibFest 5 Miler in Merrimack on June 16 and the Bobcat Bolt 5K in Durham on June 22. Maguire is registered to run Wednesday's Manchester Mile ... Speaking of the Bobcat Bolt, when was the last time this happened? Tyler Dinnan won the 5K and Wesley Dinnan won the companion 10K. They are twin brothers and former UNH runners.
Andy Schachat's column on running and triathlons in New Hampshire appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at email@example.com.
Have a fast Fourth
After the Hinckley Allen Manchester Mile and 5K take center stage Wednesday night, runners have plenty of options on the July 4 holiday, including the following.
Andover: Firecracker 5K, 9 a.m., Blackwater Park
Canaan: 4 on the 4th, 9 a.m., 17 Canaan St.
Derry: Run for Freedom 5K/10K, 7:30 a.m., Pinkerton Academy
Hopkinton: Four on the Fourth, 9 a.m., Hopkinton High School
Keene: 4 on the 4th, 8 a.m., Railroad Square (80 Main St.)
Lebanon: Red, White & Blue 6.2, 10:30 a.m., Lebanon City Hall
Merrimack: Sparkler 5K, 8 a.m., Merrimack YMCA
Nashua: Revolution Run 5K/10K, 8:30 a.m., Holman Stadium
Portsmouth: Friends on the Fourth 5K, 8:30 a.m., Great Bay Community College