[May 10, 2023 – Pinkham Notch, N.H.]

The first official race up the Mt. Washington Auto Road was held in 1936 following the same route that it takes today. The road was dirt, the buildings at the top were different, and only nine runners entered

Of those runners, Francis Darrah won with a time of 1:16:24, a very respectable pace in today’s standards, and Honore St Jean, of Manchester, NH, finished second with a time of 1:28:00.

In the second running in 1937, Honore St Jean finished 13th of 27 runners with a time of 1:38:45. He also won a snowshoe race to the top of Mt. Washington around the same time. Eighty six years later, Honore’s great niece, Marie Dunlap of Bedford, NH, will be making her debut in the Delta Dental Mt. Washington Road Race.

Dunlap, an avid runner by her own words, has been training hard. Based on her half marathon times, she hopes to finish the race somewhere between one hour and thirty minutes and one hour and 45 minutes. Marie is also training for the 2024 Boston Marathon where she will be running on the Boston Children’s Hospital Team.

Dunlap will be running this race and next year’s Boston Marathon to raise awareness of congenital heart defects. Her nephew, Sammy, was born with a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition in which the left side of the heart fails to develop.

There is a connection between the two sides of the heart called the ductus arteriosus which allows the right side of the heart to pump blood to both the lungs and the body. It naturally closes shortly after birth as the left side of the heart pumps blood to the entire body, while the right side of the heart (as runners tend to know all too well) pumps blood to the lungs. 

Sammy’s condition was diagnosed as Sammy was being discharged from the hospital after birth. A condition like this would have likely been a death sentence 30 or more years ago. Fortunately, doctors were able to perform a surgery when Sammy was 3 days old and again when he was 4 months old to bypass the damaged portion of the heart. Sammy celebrated his first birthday on April 15.

It is stories like these, spanning four generations, that make the Delta Dental Mt. Washington Road Race so enticing for so many. This is a race of great legacy and splendor, and makes one realize the deeper and wider impacts of our shared experience. So, if you see Marie Dunlap on the course or even if you don’t, send her good wishes. I will be hoping she finishes in 1:38:45.