First Posted: 6/22/2009
PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. Heres a few unattributed quotes describing the Mount Washington Road Race:
Theres only one hill…but its 7.6 miles.
Its running with all the fun parts removed.
Its like beating yourself over the head with a hammer for an hour.
Sounds like fun, right?
In the face of obvious difficulties, local runners Jason and Alison Bryant became a bona fide power couple in the event when each finished in the Top 10 of their respective classes. In 2007, they accomplished the same feat. Only one other couple has done that before and no couple has placed in the Top 10 in the same year three times. This year, Alison finished fourth in the womens division with a time of 1 hour, 22 minutes, 8 seconds. Jason took eighth in the mens competition in 1:06:13.
What makes their finishes even more remarkable is each had to overcome adversity.
With a pair of tendinitis-ridden knees and coming off a September surgery, Alison, who sported a pair of black knee braces, was actually glad the race was one giant incline.
My knees dont hurt when I go uphill, the Troy, Mich., native explained. Once I got up the first quarter-mile, it was pain free.
The downside was she was not in prime shape after sitting out after the operation on her right knee and a flare-up in the left in February.
Thats been the big problem, she said. Im just really out of shape right now. About three weeks ago, I felt like I could start running again.
The last 50 yards of the race are known as The Wall and its a spot where a good runner could very well take a minute or longer just to overcome the muscle-burning 22-percent grade (the rest of the mountain averages 11 percent). Combined with the changes in temperature and air pressure caused by the altitude it makes for a brutal end to a brutal race. Runners actually pass through clouds to get to the end. With the finish line in sight, Jason made a bold move and passed the runner in front of him. It would have been easy for Bryant to simply finish the race, a task left unfulfilled by more than a few. However, he knew the only thing separating the runners at that point was their will.
Its painful for everybody, he reasoned. The people in the front winning the race, its just as painful for them, if not more so.
Bryant said, You start hurting within the first five to 10 minutes and it never lets up. Imagine the pain he felt after running uphill for more than an hour before making that final push.
To prepare for the race, Jason and Alison ran up Pilot Mountain up to three times a session to get in shape. The Mount Washington climb is more than three times longer than that of Pilot Mountain, which has about a 9.5-percent grade, according to Jason.
The Bryants, who have been married for more than two years, compete all over the country and Jason is sponsored by La Sportiva.
The Bryants address is listed as Elkin, but Jason graduated from Surry Central, where he helps out as a track and cross country coach. Jason owns and operates Twin Oaks Farms in Dobson. He won a state title in cross country for the Golden Eagles in 1989. Alison works for Yadkinville Home Health.
By virtue of their stellar finishes, neither Jason, 36, nor Alison, 30, have to pay an entry fee at next years event, which will be the 50th running. The couple hopes to make their own milestone that day and become the first couple to finish in the Top 10 three times.
Thats our goal, to go back and do it a third time next year, Jason said.
Contact Ed Phillipps at [email protected] or 719-1921.