Jim Johnson came up big time on Sunday to earn his first ever win at the Cranmore Hill Climb. It was somewhat surprising to hear that Johnson, a winner of multiple mountain series crowns along with just about every other mountain race around at one point or another, had never won this event. Although he doesn’t train on the mountain, this race is practically in his backyard so there’s that home turf aspect of it, too.
The course this year was two laps, and as usual it was quite different from the prior edition. The ’13 national championship course was three laps which featured a downhill portion that was more ‘hold on for dear life/pray your feet touch the ground’ romp. This year the downhill on the two lap course was much more technical and for many it was just as challenging (or even more so) than the uphill. Not for Johnson. JJ proclaimed that it was the easiest Cranmore yet. That makes me cringe because I can totally see RD Paul Kirsch responding to that by making the 2015 “Hill Climb” even more brutal. Thanks, JJ!
Jim got out front early in this one and it was a battle early on between him, masters runner extraordinaire Todd Callaghan, and Matt Veiga. Callaghan and Veiga can climb, but they couldn’t match JJ on the downhill portion. As was mentioned earlier, the course featured two laps, up and down. The journey up the mountain was roughly 1.8 miles, and once you got to the top, your jelly-like legs then had to traverse the treacherous 1.3ish miles back down to the base. It was on that 1.3 mile leg where Johnson built the lead he wouldn’t relinquish. Like the final leg of the Tour de France, where the leader soaks it all in on the Champs-Elysees, the second lap was essentially a victory lap for Johnson. Not that he treated it that way. Having never won the race before, he pushed on and didn’t let up at all. The home race was finally his for the taking and to top it all off, even his parents were there to see it.
Jim broke the caution tape in 52:01 for the roughly 10k course. Veiga and Callaghan were next, running 54:15 and 54:29, respectively.
Not only did Jim get the win here, but it looks like he may have wrapped up the overall mountain series as well. Congrats to Jim on hard-earned title!