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I grasped my chest with the sound of gunshots exploding and deafening me. I was not hit, just startled and automatically quickened my pace. Certainly this was not something youd expect during the 50th running of a 50-mile race.
One of the races I had on my wish to do list (not bucket list) was the JFK 50-mile in Boonsboro, MD.
Named after President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who commented that anyone who could complete 50-miles on foot, was physically fit. He actually got this idea from President Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy had actually challenged his military officers to cover 50-miles in under 20 hours, to prove to him that they were fit to command troops in combat, 50-years earlier.
After JFK made the comment, the race popped up in 1963 with many others, some on military bases. This one however, stood the test of time, as the others were short lived. It remains a model of consistency and excellence. (
The starting point of the John F. Kennedy Memorial 50-mile race, in the town of Boonsboro, MD, founded in 1792 by George and William Boone, cousins of frontiersman and legendary mountain man, Daniel Boone, has remained since the races inception. The town lies in Washington County, Maryland.
Having seen JFK during a campaign stop in my hometown of Sheboygan, WI, I was attracted to this race the moment I saw its name. But over time, it slipped down on my list. Then, as fate would have it, the race director, Mike Spinnler, also a previous champion and course record holder at JFK, served as my assistant team manager of the 24-hour national team at the world championships in 2010.
When Mike extended and invitation to me for 2011s race he told me it would be the 49th running. I thought about it and realized Id rather be a part of the 50th running and told him to save me a spot. The race fills to its capacity each year and the spots are limited.
On hand, for this special edition of the race, was a descendant of the Roosevelt family, to fire the pistol at the start line and a great nephew of JFK to hand out the awards at the post race ceremony. It really pleased me to be a part of this historic and significant event. It was more than just a race, to me.
The night before the race, I picked up my race packet and met some of the folks I have run with in the past. Tom Possert, whom I first met in 1989, at the US 100-mile road championship had returned to this race after an absence of 27 years. Tom placed third to my second place and masters title at the 100-mile national championship in 89 and we hung out and caught up.
Eric Clifton, another former champion and course record holder, made the trip from California to be a part of the 50th running, as did Ian Torrence a long time participant with 18 finishes, and Dink Taylor whom I met in 1988, while winning my first 24-hour national championship and masters title in Atlanta. It was meant to be a special edition and it turned out to also be a reunion.
One person on the start line was going for his 44th finish. One of the guys I passed on the C & O Towpath had a sign on his back that said, Going for # 25. As I passed him, I noticed his bloodied face and asked how he was doing. His response was, I fell a couple of times, but that wont stop me!
After the shots were fired, I realized, grabbing my heart and not feeling any blood or pain was a good thing. I looked in the direction of where the shots had been fired; there on the Potomac River was a small boat with three guys, holding shotguns and a number of ducks flying away from them. What a way to pick up the pace though!
Covering about 14 miles on the Appalachian Trail and a climb of over 1,000 feet of elevation in the first 5-miles certainly took its toll on many, including me. And then, of course, we had to come back down the mountain.
One of the things I was concerned about was the large and abundant spattering of rocks on the trail. I hopped from one to another, but would often slip as they were covered with wet leaves. It was ankle twisting, but fortunately not ankle turning.
Again, I put on my trusty Compressor socks to give me the support I needed on this hilly course and then again on the flatter section of crushed gravel and dirt covering 26.3 miles on the towpath. Over those, I put the Silver Wool Runner for its cushiony sole and foot hugging fit; two qualities that I found helpful on the variety of terrain the course threw at me.
Fifty years running, for any event or product, says a lot about excellence and consistency. Like the JFK 50-mile, Wigwam has stood the test of time with superior design and construction and will be running for another 50 years, or more and keeping people coming back!
See you in a few miles.roy