The Old Man of the Mountain has returned in New Hampshire.
George Etzweiler of State College defied time again Saturday by running to the summit of Mount Washington — the highest mountain in the northeastern U.S. — in the 57th Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race.
The 97 year-old Etzweiler summitted the mountain in 4 hours, 5 minutes, 27 seconds, breaking his own record as the oldest to make it to the peak in the annual race up the 6,288-foot mountain.
It is the 12th time he has finished the race, which follows the 7.6-mile road up the peak in northern New Hampshire, with an elevation gain of 4,727 feet.
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The retired Penn State engineering professor, who was inducted into the Mount Washington Road Race Hall of Fame last year, was joined by his grandson Bob, 43, and trainer Roberta DeDonato, who crossed the finish line with him.
Despite getting up in age, Etzweiler hasn’t let anything slow him down. He had to make a trip to Mount Nittany Medical Center for sutures last weekend when he got his finger caught in an elevator door while trying make a repair. And he was also bothered Saturday by a sore hip and the heat from the sun above the tree line, according to his daughter, Shirley Fye.
“Those all made it a harder run this year and he’s a year older at 97,” she said. “So he was pretty tired after the run.”
In addition to his race entries, Etzweiler said last year he figured he also hiked to the peak of Mount Washington another 15-20 times, and also said he had a goal of running the race in 2020 — when he will be 100.
The next-oldest competitor across the finish line Saturday — of the 1,047 who made it to the top — was 86 year-old Don Taylor of Hedgeville, W.Va., who finished in 3:38:26.
A lottery is held each year to set the field because there are so many entries, but Etzweiler has a standing invitation from race organizers, who also waive the rule that competitors must finish in three hours or less.
The race was won by defending champion Joe Gray of Colorado Springs, Colo., in 58:55 — the only runner to break one hour. Shannon Payne was the women’s winner in 1:11:18, 12th overall.
Etzweiler also takes part in other runs to stay in competitive shape, including the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts 10K race and as part of a team in the Tussey Mountainback Ultramarathon. The eight-man Old Men of the Mountains team finished the 50K race in 7:35.22 last October.