MOUNT WASHINGTON, N.H. (AP) – Eric Blake of New Britain, Conn., and Brandy Erholtz of Bailey, Colo. won the Mount Washington Road Race on Saturday, beating the largest field of contenders ever in the 48-year history of the grueling all-uphill run.

Blake, the 2006 winner, fought off an intense challenge from first-timer Clint Wells, of Superior, Colo., breaking away with a grimace and a surge up the staircase-steep final yards.

In the women’s division, Erholtz, a newcomer, took the lead in the first mile over the favored Laura Haefeli, of Del Norte Colo., and held on for the 7.6 mile run to the 6288-foot summit.

“That was the toughest run I’ve ever had!” said Blake. He finished in 1:00:39 seconds. Wells finished second in 1:00:50. Rickey Gates of Boulder, Colo., finished third, in 1:01:12.

Erholtz said she was waiting for Haefeli, the only American woman ever to win an individual medal in the World Mountain Trophy race, to catch her.

She won in 1:11:08, while Kasie Enman of Huntington, Vt., overtook Haefeli to claim second in 1:13:26. Haefeli was third in 1:13:34.

“Finally my training has paid off!” said Erholtz. “All those 100-mile weeks of running in snow and rain, at 4 a.m., uphill and downhill. And I get to go to Switzerland!”

The Mount Washington Road Race this year served as the U.S. National Mountain Running Championship and as the prime selection race for the Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team that will compete in the World Mountain Trophy race in Switzerland in September.

Because the winning woman and the first four men would automatically become members of that team, the race attracted record numbers of top-level mountain runners from the Rockies and the Appalachians.

The fourth man to make the team was Joseph Gray, of Lakewood, Wash., who finished in 1:01:31.

Three-time Mount Washington winner Simon Gutierrez of Alamosa, Colo., was fifth, in 1:01:34, breaking the existing masters (over 40) course record of 1:02:12, set in 2005 by Colorado’s Matt Carpenter.

Haefeli broke the women’s masters record of 1:16:03 previously held by Joan Benoit Samuelson.

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