Archived from the Friday, June 26, 1998, Derry News
Matt Carpenter shows it can be doneBy Rich DiSalvo
There has been much talk over the past several years about the Kenyan domination of distance running in the United States and across the world for that matter. It seems that American runners can no longer compete at the highest levels of the sport.
Many people focus on the fact that the most Americans elite distance runners included will not and can not give up their luxurious lifestyles to live and train as needed to join the ranks of the worlds best.
I myself began to wonder: Can Americans still compete at the top? Can it be done?
Then at Saturdays Mt. Washington Road Race, I had the opportunity to watch 33-year-old American mountain runner Matt Carpenter make the 7.6-mile run up the auto road look like a Sunday morning training run. In the first mile, Carpenter hung with a small pack of front runners with impressive credentials including Levis Anyega of Kenya and Thierry Icart of France, and then slowly pulled away creating a two minute gap between himself and the rest of the field by the time he reached the summit. It was strikingly similar to watching Daniel Kihara of Kenya two years ago as he obliterated the previous course record running to the summit of the highest peak in the Northeast in a time of 58:20.
Although Carpenters time of 1:00:23 was considerably slower than the record, there was no question he could have run harder and faster if he had been pressed. He admitted that he never had to push himself during the run which was evident by the fact that he looked more at ease and ran smoother as the climb progressed. Not an easy thing to do.
His victory was the third in as many attempts at Mt. Washington including wins over some of the best runners to ever take on the mountain such as former New Zealand Olympian Derek Froude.
Although others in this years field came in with impressive numbers, in reality it was Carpenter who possessed the most impressive credentials. Winner of the Pikes Peak Ascent three times, Carpenter also became the first person to ever run a sub three hour marathon at an altitude above 14,000 feet in 1993 when he posted his third victory at the Everest Sky Marathon. The Colorado resident is consistently the man to beat in the International Skyrunning circuit a series of mountain marathons and endurance races from the Rocky Mountains to the Himalayas.
After watching Carpenter chew up the Washington course, it was actually the ride down the mountain that proved more interesting as he talked with those present about his mountain running. If the average American distance runner is reluctant to give up his or her luxurious lifestyle to compete at the highest level, then Matt Carpenter is anything but average.
He spoke of his trips to Nepal where he literally could not eat or drink anything that was available when in the city of Katmandu. In fact, he revealed that some of his Italian mountain running teammates call him riso bianco since his training diet consisted solely of white rice supplemented with Power Bars.
Carpenter comes across as a purist both in health and in nature - seemingly appropriate for a mountain runner. It was obvious that the pollution and disease of the third world area disturbed him greatly. On the other hand, he related that he had never seen such harmony and community as in the mountain villages where families work together with nature doing what they must to survive. Similar to the way he does what he must to maintain his excellence in mountain running.
But dont be fooled its not just clean mountain air and rice for this eccentric who doesnt own a car. The latest tools of technology also play a part in his scheme.
Carpenters World Wide Web site on the Internet http://www.skyrunner.com - not only promotes the International Skyrunning racing circuit and helps fuel the fire of aspiring runners around the world it also keeps the fire burning within.
He speaks with great eloquence about his sport, which is really a way of life rather than a sport, and he projects an air of quiet confidence.
Having him back at Mt. Washington was not only good for the race and for mountain running in New England but also good for those of us who were beginning to wonder about the plight of American distance running. After Saturdays race I can now answer my own question and the answer is yes. It can be done.