When a hiker plans to run Mount Washington’s “toughest winter 10K”

“I used to be a runner” is how the story goes for so many people, and I am included in this category of “former pave pounders.” I stopped running when I started having children and never went back to the sport. I always loved running, but my post-pregnancy body was never up to the challenge. Instead of running, I chose hiking for exercise, and I fell in love with the sport. It is different type of physical challenge — one that favors slow and steady movement. It suited me to a tee as I was never a fast runner, but I always had outstanding endurance.


Fast forward to this winter when the lack of snow in the northeast favored snowshoeing over skiing. I picked up a pair of good snowshoes at an affordable price on Craigslist and began small local hikes. While researching snowshoes, I stumbled upon Ski to the Clouds, an event that challenges people to ski, snowshoe or fat bike up the Mount Washington Auto road. It’s a 10K race, with 4K on the rolling terrain at the foot of Mount Washington and 6K up the auto road. You climb 4,000 feet in that 6K with grades up to 12 percent. On a whim, I registered for the race and began training. It didn’t take long for me to realize how woefully unprepared I was for this type of activity.

At the start of the winter, I was in good physical shape but moving from a weekend warrior to someone who can run up Mount Washington was a daunting task. As my training has progressed, my hiking side has taken over and has guided my training. I’ve realized I’m not a runner and will not be able to run the race like other ultra-running participants. Unlike most people who are training for the race, I am not concerned about the 12 percent climb. Yes, it will be steep, but as a hiker, I climb steep hills — all the time. And this climb will be easy as it will be on the groomed, very even terrain of the auto road. There will be no rocks to scramble, no roots to dodge and no brooks to cross. My biggest hurdle will be the 4K run at the bottom — 2.5 miles of sheer agony.

The race will be held on March 13th. Just a few weeks left to prepare. I will post photos and results from the race when all is said and done.

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