He's Reached the Peak: Newport Resident Named to Mt. Washington Hall of Fame
Bob Teschek, of Newport, is a recent inductee to the White Mountains Road Race Hall of Fame. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Newport — Bob Teschek directed the Mount Washington Road Race long before timing and registration were as automatic as they are today. When the event’s Hall of Fame debuted three years ago, Teschek was an automatic choice for the Hall of Fame’s selection committee — and eventually induction himself.
After saving the venerable race from potentially discontinuing in the early 1980s and directing it from 1982-2010, Teschek, 67, will be inducted into Mount Washington Road Race Hall of Fame on June 14, one day before its 53rd running.
He was voted in by the Hall’s committee members and the Hall’s 11 previous inductees.
Teschek joins a class that also includes three-time winner and former female record holder J’ne Day-Luce, elite masters runner and three-time male winner Simon Gutierrez and overall course record holder Jonathan Wyatt.
Teschek — the only New Hampshire resident in this year’s class — ran the event six times in the 1960s and 70s, recording a personal best 1 hour, 15 minutes, 52 seconds for 22nd place overall in 1977.
Five years later, he helped save the race from demise when he offered to organize it in place of John “Jock” Semple, a colorful, Boston-based official who had been failing to satisfy the organizational needs of a race ending 6,288 feet above sea level atop the highest summit in the northeastern United States.
“There was no real preparation being put into the race, and the auto road management was fed up,” Teschek said. “There were 500 runners there with no toilets, no tents. They were ready to cancel it because to have it closed (to motorists) was causing them to lose significant revenue, and the race wasn’t being put on properly.”
Then a 35-year-old Concord resident, Teschek read about the race’s looming downfall and decided to act to prevent it. He persuaded auto road management to give him a one-year trial as race director.
“I just couldn’t imagine this race going under, it meant so much to so many people,” he recalled. “It’s a classic race that started in the 1930s, then stopped during World War II and didn’t get going again until the 60s. When I did my first race (in 1966), it was the sixth edition.”
When Teschek resumed directing duties, preparing for race-day tents and toilets were far from his only responsibilities. Taking on facilitation of the registration process, Teschek was unaware just how much demand there was for the race. There were about 500 runners per year under Semple’s watch, Teschek said, but many more applicants.
“People were sending (self addressed stamped envelopes) to register, and Jock would just start throwing them away after awhile,” Teschek said. “The minute I took over, I was flooded with requests, and (auto road management) said I had to cap it at 800 and that they were going to enforce it.”
For a few years, Teschek accepted registrations on a first-come, first-served basis, giving a clear advantage to local and regional runners over those whose locations required more time for mail to arrive from.
“I was getting between 1,000-2,000 applications, and they couldn’t be post marked before March 1,” Teschek said. “So naturally, people were sending them out first thing in the morning (March 1) and runners from Canada, California, really anywhere outside the northeast, were sort of getting shut out of the race. Eventually I said, ‘We’re going to do a lottery.’ I gave everyone two weeks to get me the applications and I pulled them out of a hat. Nowadays, race lotteries are pretty common with Internet registration, but back then, it wasn’t very common. Not everyone was happy with it, but I felt that’s what was fair.”
As the reputation of the race grew, it began to attract elite runners from the western U.S. and overseas. Top competitors from Colorado, California and African nations such as Kenya and Ethiopia made their way to New Hampshire for what became known as “The Run to the Clouds.”
Thanks to Teschek’s leadership, runners didn’t mind if they ever came down. His long-time media liaison, John Stifler, lauded Teschek’s even-keeled demeanor while coordinating one of New England’s more popular sporting events.
“Bob is a unique guy in ways that make you wonder, ‘Why aren’t more people like this?’ ” Teschek said. “He’s just very sane, sensible, organized and efficient. We hosted runners from all over the world, a lot of top runners from places like Colorado who said, ‘Wow. We’re going back and we’re going to explain to people back at home how you guys do this, because you guys know how to hold a race.’ A lot of that was because of Bob.”
Since 1985, Teschek has owned and operated Granite State Race Services, a timing services company that records results for more than 100 road races annually.
He continues to direct the Bill Luti 5-Miler in Concord, named after his former Concord High School cross country coach and mentor.
Over the years, he’s seen finish-time recording go from a system using stop-watches and Popsicle sticks to keep track of the order of runners to electronic chips read by computerized sensors. Registration, naturally, is now primarily done online rather than through the mail.
Teschek retired as Mount Washington Road Race director three years ago, lining up his final day of duty with its 50th installment. It gave him 29 years of service.
“People ask me why I didn’t stay on to get to 30 years. I tell them because 50 is the bigger number,” Teschek said.
Having always planned to run in the race again after stepping down as director, Teschek is waiting until his left knee fully heals from an injury sustained while training for the Six in the Sticks Trail Run in Newport. Like organizing the race, he wants to give it his all when he goes back to running.
“It’s a hard race. It’s eight miles and you don’t get a break,” he said. “I’m just not interested in going half speed or doing a jog-walk.”
The Mount Washington Road Race Hall of Fame induction ceremony is open to the public and begins at 6 p.m. at the base of the auto road, off of New Hampshire Route 16 just north of Pinkham Notch.
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.