No mountain too high for this 98-year-old runner and age-graded champion

George Etzweiler (yellow jacket) once again becomes the oldest runner ever to race to top of Mount Washington.

He’s 98 and getting faster.

Yes sir. Last Sunday, George Etzweiler proved that by completing all 7.3 miles of the 4,650-foot high Mount Washington (N.H.) Road Race a minute quicker than he did it in 2017.

We’ve written about George before but, no pun intended, the story never grows old.

Etzweiler, the father of longtime Mercer-Bucks Running Club member Larry Etzweiler, finished yet another historic quest with a time of 4:04.

There are runners half George’s age who would probably need more time to make it to the top but no shame in that.

After all, race participants had to battle 40-mile-per-hour winds near Washington’s summit.

A while back, George vowed he was going to run this race until he turns 100 and darned if he isn’t getting close.

According to a story on the Runner’s World website, the air was filled with cries of “You’re an inspiration, George!’’ from awestruck bystanders as George approached the peak.

“Dad has become a very popular participant,’’ Larry explained. “People keep wishing him luck and hoping he can accomplish this goal.

“At the awards ceremony, the crowds went wild cheering for Dad when he went up to accept his award.  Seemingly everyone wanted to take Dad’s picture — young and old women, young and old men, non-runners and runners wanted to have their pictures taken with Dad.’’

He’s become the star of the show. And why not? His age-graded time (a calculation of time, age, distance) was the best of anyone’s at this year’s race.

The buzz was palpable.

“About half of the conversations I overheard both before, during, and after the race were about Dad,’’ Larry said. “Based on what I saw and heard at the race, I think Dad could run a successful campaign for governor of New Hampshire.’’

Even 52-year-old Simon Gutierrez, who finished an amazing fifth overall to post an impressive age-grading, had to take a backseat to the elder Etzweiler.

To top it off, George won a check for $300.

But the biggest reward is just being able to finish such an incredible feat. Not many of us are even around at 98 to think about this kind of challenge.

The State College resident, who began doing the Mount Washington race in 1989, has now completed the route 13 times.

He only stops to take in a little tea and lemonade along the way (sports drinks upset his stomach) and wave to onlookers.

Things started to get tough at the five-mile mark but grandson Bob and trainer Missy Quick were on hand to make sure George stayed steady.

Near the finish, two of George’s great-grandchildren joined in for the final strides to the finish line.

At the awards ceremony, George received two medals (over-90 age group, plus age-graded time). When his name was called, George asked the announcer to repeat what he had just said.

“My hearing isn’t keeping up with my running,’’ he cracked to the delight of the crowd.

Later that day, after taking a nap, George was seen out hiking trails in New Hampshire again. This gentleman has what we call a “high motor.’’

“After the race, Dad felt fine, and was surprised by how good he felt because he’s usually tired and stiff after a race,’’ Larry reported.

“Yesterday, he was very limber and joined the family on a 2-hour hike around Bald Mountain and up to Artist’s Bluff, just north of the Franconia Notch.  Along the way, some fellow hikers recognized Dad from having seen him on television in a news program the night before.’’

So there you have it. Another Mount Washington in the books and no signs of slowing down.

Great genetics must have some say in this.

But surely it goes beyond that. That old Tom Petty line, “You never slow down, you never grow old’’ certainly applies here.

The proof is right there at the top of the mountain.

Race calendar

Wednesday, July 4

38th annual Revolutionary Run 10K/5K, 8 a.m., Washington Crossing. Contact

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About Wayne Fish 2437 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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