Running JFK 50, for the first time
In 2014 I ran my first JFK 50. Although I thought I had learned all I could about this legendary event nothing could prepare me for race day. The AT was harder, the C&O tow path was longer and the final 8 miles of rolling roads were more challenging than I was expecting. After crossing the finish line in front of Springfield Middle School 10 hours later the highlights of the course were forever burnt in my mind. It was a great race and a awesome experience. Driving home, I could not wait to share my experience with all of my friends. JFK 2014 was great but it was also lonely. I ran alone, I had no support crew and I had no one to share the “finisher glow” with.
Fast forward nearly 365 days to JFK 50 2015. This year I would not be alone. On a crisp Saturday morning along with seven of my friends I was making my way to the starting line in the middle of downtown Boonsboro, MD once again. Leading up to the race and continuing at our pre-race dinner they had asked my thoughts about the race and the course. I tried to not over sale the challenge, I tried to represent the task and tried to help prepare them. Finding my place at the start, I wanted to run well, I had my goals but I also wanted my friends to have a memorable first JFK.
In their words here is impressions of JFK for the first time.
Gayle H. — Gayle was new to our group, she was a friend of Eric’s but instantly she fit right in. “I was overwhelmed by the amount of support. I loved the AT section .. And can’t believe I didn’t say once ” I am ready for this to be done “
David G. — “This race goes down as one of the best. It lived up to the hype. The atmosphere from the time we stepped into Boonsboro High School, traveled along the course, and finished at Springfield Middle School in Williamsport. was electric. It’s a bucket list race that is a must do for any ultrarunner. It’s a day I’ll never forget. I’m so glad I got to spend it with my friends so we can sit back, laugh, and tell stories for probably years to come.”
Eric H. — “Run the JFK50” they said. “You will have fun” they said. Well, they were right! Who knew someone could have such a blast running through a mine field of sharp rocks, trudging down an endless dirt road for hours on end, and feeling the pounding of each step on the asphalt of the rural roads of Maryland?! So what made it so awesome? It wasn’t the race. It wasn’t the people. It wasn’t the support. It wasn’t the post race beer and pizza. It wasn’t the bubble baths. It was a combination of everything that came together to make an experience that only can be described as magical… with bubbles. So glad I had the opportunity to share the experience with such an amazing group of runners. Never again… …… until next year.”
David, I wasn’t going to mention the bubble bath….but Eric did.
Kimberly R. — “It was a magical race from beginning to end. I was more timid than I thought I’d be on the AT, so A LOT of folks passed me. Yet I kept calm and focused on staying in my comfort zone. I did enjoy the challenge and the trail section seemed to go by quickly. I feel like I never looked up, but I listened to some amazing stories and great advice along the way. I have to say, after passing the guy on a body board being loaded onto the ATV with a broken leg, I was relieved to get off the trail with no major injury. There is nothing like that terrain. My relief, once off the trail, had me feeling like I could fly on the canal. I was never bored. I loved the mix of quiet solitude and loud cheering support. The crowds were amazing and so encouraging. I ate some along the way, but wasn’t even interested in the red velvet cake at mile 38. I could smell the end and wanted to get there. Every runner I passed, or who passed me, gave a smile, nod, or word of encouragement. I never felt alone. The final miles on the road were definitely rolling hills, but I got more energy as I approached the last mile. I couldn’t help but choke up as I rounded that last corner, heard the announcer, and saw the finish line. In my mind, I sprinted up the hill to the end. Then, to hear my name called as a finisher of the JFK 50 was icing in the cake. Will I do it again? I’m not sure. But, every ultra runner should do this race at least once.” Ed, Kim’s husband was there supporting her but she was moving so fast I never saw him…
Andrea M. — “David and I had a blast. I took my time on the AT and was very cautious because I was so worked up and terrified of it. We didn’t have too many people pass and we only had to pass a few people so we were never really stuck in traffic. David was a few minutes ahead of me but I caught him in the first half mile of the C&O. We stuck together the rest of the day and shared a lot of laughs. I can honestly say that I had the same experience as Kim. I found lots of inspiration out on the course and really enjoyed the gorgeous weather, the great views, the crowd support and chatting with the other runners. I loved the finish line excitement and hearing my name called at the end brought tears to my eyes. I am on cloud nine from the most amazing experience. So thankful for all my run pals, y’all made for an amazing weekend!
Our Support Crews: The unsung heros. As runners, we only had to run 50 miles, these guys had to get from check point to check point, have our gear set up and then sit. Sit in the cold, sit in the wind and sit for long hours as we ran past or stopped for a few vital seconds. They saw the race from a different side of life.
Joshua D. — Note: Joshua originally planned to run the event with Eric, but came up injured just prior to the race. Although he could not reach his individual goals, his support for us on the course and leading up to the race was OUTSTANDING. “I must say I had fun even though it was my first race on the sidelines looking in. I was so inspired to see runners of all ages pass me and I loved cheering them on. You guys rocked this race! Next year, I plan to be a wingman and not a road princess.
Hank S. — “Well. I wasn’t going to say anything cause I wasn’t on the course and my view point was limited. I think everyone did awesome. I will say one thing tho. At mile 38 check point. I told Andrea I think you need to pick up the pace some try to run faster if you can. Her response was “Right now I feel like I’m running as fast as I can” I said ok stay consistent. The look on her face should be on the cover of this blog.”
As Andrea shared with the group — “Our crews, I felt like they were our boxing coach taking me aside in the corner of the ring and telling me how awesome I was doing and how strong I looked. I even believed them for awhile! LoL
And so JFK 2015 is in the books. My race results were not what I had wanted, I thought I ran harder, I thought I ran smarter and longer, but the clock did not agree. I’m okay with that, I had more laughs, more smiles, and more fun running the race with friends. I thought about each one of these great friends along the way. I hoped they survived the AT. I had hoped they made the cut-offs along the C & O. I was proud to hear they ALL reached their goals crossing the finish line. It was the 53rd running of the JFK 50, my second and thier first AND it was GREAT race,