Cover photo from gloryhoundevents.com

After a one year hiatus due to the COVID19 pandemic, the Downhill at Dawn half marathon under the steady management of race director Greg Duff/Glory Hound Events returned to Ridgecrest on May 29. With COVID19 limitations having been lifted prior to the race, the traditional mass start was once again in play and 258 runners (roughly half of the usual 500 entries) toed the line at 6am on a overcast and humid Saturday morning for the 13.1 mile race to Old Fort. The USATF certified course is a mix of pavement and hard packed dirt roads, featuring a 1.5 mile out and back at Ridgecrest before descending approximately 1,100 feet over the remaining 10 miles to the finish. 

Jus’ Running’s Joe Ainsworth took the lead from the start, accompanied by friend Greg Little, Anne Wheatly and Kevin FitzGerald setting a 6:30 per mile pace at the outset. FitzGerald dropped back on the uphill around mile 3, just before the descent to Old Fort began in earnest. Ainsworth increased the pace on the downhill section and crossed first overall in 1:20.27 (6:08 pace) closely followed by Little. Wheatly placed 4th overall and first female in 1:24.12 (6:25 pace) and FitzGerald finished 6th overall and 1st Masters in 1:25.21 (6:31 pace).

For those who are not familiar with long, downhill running, it is actually more difficult than most would imagine with the pounding that occurs to the runners feet, ankles, knees, hips and quadriceps muscles taking it’s toll, especially in longer races such as Downhill at Dawn, The Scream, Peak to Creek Marathon and yes, even the Boston Marathon, which is a net loss elevation course and therefore not eligible for world record times. Specific training (running and weights) to strengthen the muscles of the feet and that surround the ankles and knees along with the quadriceps and gluteus (butt muscles) is highly recommended for anyone considering doing a lengthy downhill race to avoid injury and to have your best times and shortest recovery post race.

By Jus’ Running Race Team member Kevin Fitzgerald

Race photos credit to Paul King.