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Johnston shatters record in 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational

Beth Bragg

Less than two weeks after an astonishing record-setting victory in a 100-mile race, Willow's Dave Johnston on Thursday crushed the Iditarod Trail Invitational record by running 350 miles in just over four days.

Running on a trail that race officials called "a snow highway," Johnston capitalized on great conditions to shatter Steve Reifenstuhl's 2005 record in the footrace division.

Johnston, 43, finished the run from Knik to McGrath on Thursday afternoon in a time of 4 days, 1 hour, 38 minutes.

He slashed more than half a day from Reifenstuhl's old record of 4 days, 15 hours, a time some runners viewed as unbreakable. Last year, Johnston's shot at the record came up short by four hours.

Earlier this month, Johnston wiped out another well-respected record -- Geoff Roes' 2007 record in the Susitna 100.

Johnston completed that race, held the weekend of Feb. 15-16, in 18 hours, 22 minutes. He beat Roes' record of by more than three hours.

In a pair of posts on the Iditarod Trail Invitational's Facebook page, Roes -- a Juneau man who is one of the nation's most accomplished ultrarunners -- marveled at Johnston's pace en route to McGrath.

"Can't even wrap my mind around this. Best analogy I can come up with is that Dave's time from Rohn to Nikolai (18:25) is faster than anyone has ever covered 90 miles on foot in any of the snow races... Except for Dave just over a week ago at Susitna."

"Dave did Rohn to Nikolai 11 hours faster than Steve in his record year! Dave's day (Wednesday) is one of the most impressive days of running I have ever heard of."

Johnston averaged 87 miles a day for four straight days.

His performance benefitted from perfect conditions. "(T)he meltdown in January created a snow highway," officials said on the race website.

The hard, fast trail yielded records in the bike divisions too. Kevin Breitenbach of Fairbanks broke the men's record by more than 14 hours and Heather Best of Fairbanks broke the women's record by more than a day.

Breitenbach finished in 2 days, 4 hours, 43 minutes. He was more than 14 hours faster than Jay Petervary, who set the old record last year.

Breitenbach reached McGrath at 6:43 p.m. Tuesday, "in the same time the mushers in the Iditarod do," the race website said.

"The trail was so fast," Breitenbach told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "I don't know how else to explain it. It was a crazy, fast trail."

Best won the women's bike race in 2 days, 14 hours, 13 minutes, an improvement of 26 hours, 7 minutes over Eszter Horanyi's record set last year. Best beat the old men's record too.

In fact, nine bikers finished faster than Petervary's 2013 mark of 2 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes. Among them were Tim Berntson, who placed a close second to Breitenbach. Berntson's time of 2 days, 5 hours, 4 minutes put him 21 minutes behind the winner.

Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.