It was an ultracool, ultraearly start for the 108 runners in the Dannon Two Bridges 36 Mile ultramarathon yesterday, won by ultra durable Max White, a 28-year-old math teacher from Alexandria.
White took the lead five minutes after the 8 a.m. Hains Point start and kept it for the next 36 miles. Running a pace of 5 minutes 56 seconds a mile, White, who won the first Two Bridges race in 1972, prevailed again, in 3 hours 34 minutes 51 seconds.
Fred A. Savitz, 33, of Villanova, Pa., finished second in 3:41.48. Joanne Belinsky, 25, of Brooklyn N.Y., was the only one of the four women who started the race to finish it. Her time was 5:57.9. A total of 87 runners finished the course.
"Right from the start, my plan was to run a six-minute effort the whole way," said, White, who had not run an ultramarathon since 1976, when he placed seventh in the Scottosh Two Bridges race on which this one is patterned. "No one was with me (at the beginning), but I wasn't about to slow down."
Savitz, who second for most of the race, said, "I saw Max going out at sub-sixes and I didn't want to push that. I heard his first mile called at 5:50. Mine was 5:59 and I was pleased."
White, who is not sure whether he will train up for longer distances or down to the marathon daid, "I feel I can run a six-mile pace for 50 miles. But I wasn't born with sub-five-minute mile legs."
White's sub-six-minute mile legs gave him a four minute lead over Savitz at the 15-mile marker. He increased his lead as he approached Mount Vernon, the turn-around point, where a fife and drum corps awaited him. White, who had not been to Mount Vernon since the last time he ran the race, glided past bewildered tourists accustomed to a somewhat different pace.
Runners reached the halfway point at Washington's landing in Mount Vernon.
"Eighteen miles, you're halfway" said a race organizer, pointing the way up a flight of 82 stairs. Only Alfred Hitchcock could have designed a course that planted 82 steps at precisely the point where many runners were "hitting the wall."
"Going up the stairs was a bit of a pain," White said, "but the fife and drums picked me up."
Unfortunately, the wind also picked up and White's pace slowed after the marathon mark at 26 miles. Until then, it appeared that he would break the race record 3:22.22, held by race organizer Bob Thurston.
White said he was slowed partly by a stitch in his side, partly by the wind and partly "by the fact that I was just running out of gas."
The first-place prize is round-trip fare to the August 1980 Two Bridges Race in Scotland. The first three-man team, with the best aggregate score, from the Haverford Athletic Club led by Savitz, received the same award.