Westmore Challenge

Liam Lahar and Cole Alexander make the impossible look easy.


An hour before sunrise on a brisk fall morning, two friends planned to meet at the bottom of Moose Mountain. With only a headlamp to see, Lake Region Sophomore Liam Lahar waited impatiently for Junior Cole Alexander to show up. “Cole was pretty late” Lahar recollects. When Alexander and his brother Lake Region graduate Wayne Alexander finally arrived, the group set off to do what for many people would be the complete unthinkable: Run a marathon in the mountains.

On Saturday, September 26th, NorthWoods Stewardship Center hosted their annual Westmore Challenge, a trail run fundraiser in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. The 26 mile course, just 0.2 miles away from a full marathon, takes its participants over five Vermont mountains: Moose, Hor, Pisgah, Haystack, and Bald. Participants choose to hike or run the entire 26 miles, or one of the abbreviated options provided by NorthWoods. NorthWoods provides shuttles and snacks along the way.

Liam Lahar and Cole Alexander completed the course in 6:14:53.6 and 6:20:09.6 respectively. That is over six hours of running and hiking for both of them. They scored 14th and 15th place out of the 90 Westmore participants this year, winning first and second in the under 18 category.

For Lahar and Alexander training for the event began months before. Lahar reported training for about two months before the event. Alexander said he had been training since June. They both hiked multiple mountains every week. Despite the training, 26 miles over rough terrain made an impact. The next day Lahar reported feeling “Dead. Broken. Like my legs were about to snap off.” Alexander echoed the sentiment and said his legs felt, “ Bad. Old man. I’m about 98 years old.”

Lake Region teachers Amy Kelley and Teri Oughton, who hiked a 20 mile version of the course, took a different approach to the challenge. They took their time sight seeing and enjoying the day. Mrs. Kelley recommends the Westmore Challenge saying that, “While the Westmore Challenge is a fundraiser for NorthWoods, it is more than that: It is a chance to visit with friends while connecting with the environment that nurtures us. That is worth the price of admission!”

Lahar and Alexander have different memories. When asked to recall their favorite part of the race, Alexander said the first mountain “because it was dark and I didn’t feel terrible. It was exciting.” Lahar humbly responded that his favorite part was the end of the race. But would they do it again? “Absolutely” Lahar answered without hesitation. “Next year, I can do better.”

Westmore Website: https://www.northwoodscenter.org/wordpress/westmore-mountain-challenge-18/