George Etzweiler has been training for this weekend’s Mount Washington road race in New Hampshire for weeks, priming himself for the 7.6-mile course to the top of the region’s highest peak.
He’s been doing planking exercises to work on his core, pushing a “sled” across the gym floor (sometimes with weights on it and sometimes with children on it), and he’s even been getting in some reps on the stability ball when he can.
“There’s nothing really that we don’t have him do,” said Missy Quick, one of Etzweiler’s trainers at the Pennsylvania-based Ki’netik Fitness. “Whatever we give him to do, he does it.”
So what’s so remarkable about some guy getting ready for a race, you might ask?
Well, Etzweiler isn’t just any race participant in this year’s Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race. He’s 99 years old (or young, by the way he conducts himself), and Saturday’s steady climb will mark his 14th time tackling the route.
“He’s just such an inspiration,” said Quick, who will join Etzweiler and his son and grandson as they follow the roadway to the summit in a walk-run fashion this weekend. “Everybody in this gym, young and old, loves George.”
Quick and Berta DeDonato, co-owners of Ki’netik Fitness, where Etzweiler does his workouts twice per week, have been tracking the nonagenarian’s progress on social media in the months leading up to this year’s event.
The updates have provided followers with pictures and video clips of Etzweiler pushing and pulling a weighted sled, whipping around the “battle ropes,” and going for practice runs up a local path through the woods.
“He will go up and down that for a couple of months prior to the race,” Quick said of Etzweiler’s regime. “As far as in the gym, he does anything everybody else does.”
Etzweiler, who started running at 49 to lose some weight, did not immediately return a telephone call from the Globe this week (he may have been napping, we’re told). But his status as a legend on and off the course — and an active runner in general — has been well-documented.
Last year, Runner’s World posted a video about Etzweiler after the then-98-year-old finished the New Hampshire road race in just over four hours, beating his previous time the year prior.
During his climb, he only stopped “to drink lemonade and tea because sports drinks don’t agree with his stomach,” the magazine reported.
“Then he’s back at it,” Quick said of last year’s race. “He doesn’t stop to rest, ever.”
Tom Donovan, who works for DMSE Sports, the company that provides operational and logistical support for the race, said everybody is thrilled that Etzweiler is returning this year.
Donovan said his favorite “George anecdote” was the time Etzweiler drove by himself to New Hampshire from his hometown of State College, Pa., one day before the race. He was 92 at the time.
“[He] slept in his truck, ran the race, won his age group, got his award, then got in his truck and drove home,” Donovan said in an e-mail.
“We love George,” he added. “Such an inspiration to so many folks.”