Tag Archives: Runner

Running the 57th Annual JFK 50-Mile Endurance Race

Some races have a loyal following because of the unique and challenging terrain on which the course is run. Some races establish a strong culture based on the community of runners who return year after year. Some races build their reputation from the history of the event. The JFK 50-Mile Endurance Run has it all.

The JFK 50 runs along a horseshoe-shaped “point to point” course covering three very distinctive landscapes. From the town center of Boonsboro, Maryland the historic route covers 15.5-miles along the Appalachian Trail, 26.3-miles on the C&O canal towpath and 8.4-miles of rolling country roads leading runners to the final destination and the finish line in front of Springfield Middle School in Williamsport, Maryland.

(My Strava data, start to C&O and C&O to finish)

Along the Appalachian Trail runners transverse over asphalte roadways, and single track trails infested with gnarly rocks while climbing 2,461 feet of total gain reaching the top of South Mountain, the highest spot on the course, at 1,795ft. At around 14.5-miles the course takes a rapid descent via staggering switchbacks at the Weverton cliffs. Surviving the AT runners take on the 26.3-miles of the C&O canal towpath. Although seemingly flat the towpath climbs over 300 feet. At approx. 42-miles hopeful finishers depart the towpath at Dam#4 and begin the 8.4-mile run to the finish. With the finish line in sight and with nearly 8-miles of rolling country roads behind them finishers have to climb one last hill .25-miles from the finish. The JFK course offers something for everyone. This historic race will test all those who want the coveted finishers medal.

For some finishing, the JFK 50 is a rite of passage. For others running the oldest UltraMarathon in the nation is a yearly tradition. The finishers’ “clubs” start with 10-years with a handle full of legends having completed over 1500-miles on the course with a leader having finished 49 JFK races.

The JFK 50 Mile Endurance Run was first held in the spring of 1963.  It was one of numerous such 50-mile events held around the country as part of President John F. Kennedy’s push to bring the country back to physical fitness. Held for 57 consecutive years the memorial run is a benchmark of East Coast endurance events.

The 57th edition was my 4th running of this great event. Not that I am an elite athlete or would ever threaten to win this event, but I do have some secrets to success I would like to share. Race reports 2014, 2015, and 2016 (PR)).

Secrets to finishing the JFK 50-mile Endurance Run

  1. Without burning out your legs, advance during the early road miles.
  2. Always move w/purpose, when not running hike at a fast pace.
  3. When on the “non-rocky sections” of the AT make up ground. Run when you can, and pass when you can pass.
  4. When on the “rocky sections” land your footfall light and quick.
  5. Have a plan for the C&O…I choose to use an interval approach, 5/1 run/fast hike.
  6. Don’t allow the C&O to put you to sleep…make the run parts of your interval count.
  7. Concentrate on the mile you’re in.
  8. Make the pit stops short & make them count, drink/eat before you’re thirsty/hungry.
  9. Power hike the climb off the C&O and then run everything that is downhill or flat.
  10. Be ready for that final push.

    And most importantly breath in your victory and finish.

Running and Writing – Why I do it

Both gifts came later in life.

Running was something that did not come naturally. At a young age, I had some speed, I was a quick little kid but lacked the discipline to build endurance. When it got hard, when I ran out of gas and I gave up.

Writing was something I enjoyed early on but I lacked the skills and knowledge to format my stories correctly. Inturn my English teachers tore up my papers with flaming red critiques and destroyed my desire to take further abuse.

Running later in life opened new doors. I conquered the lack of self-confidence and endurance. I found I had the ability to run the long and hard-fought miles. I found I enjoyed the challenge of pushing my limits during the long run. Each new distance, each race held a story within its self. New terrain, new challenges inspired me to try and capture the memories. In running I may have found the true me, and I found a voice.

I’ve been asked why I write… It’s obvious that I’m not an English major, The comas may be misplaced and my sentence structure could be off.

I write to entertain and to tell a story that may inspire. To encourage others to look at life from another perspective. I write to uncover the drama of life and the epic ultramarathons. I write so that others may find strength in relationships and running.

UNFINISHED will take the reader along another journey of the human spirit and along the racecourse of the JFK 50 mile endurance race.

“the magic of the JFK 50 Mile, Brian Burk “gets it” and catches the true flavor of the JFK 50 Mile in his novel “Unfinished.”
Enjoy the journey!

Mike Spinnler (JFK50 Race Director and Champion)

Available on Amazon and the JFK race expo…

In the meantime check out my first novel Running to Leadville.

More than a running story.  The tale takes the reader from finding love, experiencing loss, while finding oneself at 12,600 ft on the top of Hope Pass. Available on Amazon

Signed copies of all my books available here

Ultra Marathon – 6 Weeks to a 100-Mile Finish

6-weeks to a 100-mile finish (I do not recommend this training plan to anyone…)

All was going well until Feb, 2019 when during a run I caught a root/rock with the toe of my shoe.  The result was an impact to my left knee on the very sharp edge of a rock.

Feb 2, 2019…I ran 18.5 miles after this fall

Long story short…no permanent damage, but significate trauma to the point where the patella tendon mounts to the tibia.  The result of this misstep kicked off a series of injuries.  Being a bit stubborn, I ran two marathons (Wrightsville Beach and Cleveland) and a 24-hour race where I logged 101.250 miles while in quite a bit of pain and on a compromised gait.  The result was my left knee became unstable, I developed sciatica pain in my right hip and my right insole was stressed to the point that I could not take a step without being in pain. With Leadville and redemption on the horizon, I tried to power through it.

The Start of the Cape Fear 24-Hour Endurance Run
Oct 12, 2019, The Start of the Cape Fear 24-hour Endurance Run

By the second week of June…I could not stand running in pain anymore.  I thought for sure my running career was over.  I visited my DR, and a sports chiropractor. I took anti-inflammatories and stretched, but nothing worked. Desperate the only thing I could think of as my next step was a “hard reset.”  I had one hope…to shut it down.  Would taking the summer off reset my normal running gait and heal the trauma?

For 8 weeks I cross-trained in an effort to maintain some form of fitness.  5 days a week I pedaled a stationary bike, rode the elliptical and slowly worked in brisk paced walking.  3 weeks before the Morgantown Marathon I started running again and a funny thing happened.

My knee responded while the sciatic and insole pain stayed at bay.  I had hope. With a bit of nervous anticipation, I toed the line in Morgantown prepared to put my body to the test.  26.2 miles later I crossed the finish line tired, physically wore out by the hills and challenged from an abnormally hot day, but I finished. I had hope.

Approximately 20 days, 22 hours, 38 minutes and 38 seconds later I crossed the finish line at the Cape Fear 24-Hour Endurance Run in Lillington, NC having completed my 6th 100-mile run. I finished 6th overall and 4th male.

100.6 miles later…22hours 38 minutes and 38 seconds after starting, I’m Back.

During my summer running vacation, I thought I was done.  At one point I felt like a part of myself disappeared, and a connection to the running community was gone. At times I felt lost.

Finishers buckle…this one is extra special. Thank you Michele for being there…you made my come back possible. Love ya, more….

What did I learn?

You’re always a runner.  Being a runner is as much a state of mind as it is an action.

Our bodies need to heal.

Never lose faith in you… (I recommend this to everyone)

Not Running and what I’m learning

Some honest facts about my time off from running.

Some background to my time off. Feb 2, 2019, I went to the Uwharrie Mountains to get in some training miles and to chase some vertical in preparation for my return to Leadville Aug 2019. Uwharrie is a great place to run but the trails do offer some rocky foot placements. About 1.5 miles into a beautiful Saturday morning with a 20-mile adventure planned I caught my foot on an unseen rock. The next thing I knew I was on the ground and my left leg making an impact with the jagged edge of a rock. My knee caught the rock where your patella tendon mounts to the shin bone. After seeing stars and figuring out that nothing was terminal, I noted how much that impact hurt. After a few painful moments, I was able to get back on my feet and continued on. 18.5 miles later my knee was bloody and sore knee but I figured I was no worse for wear.

Fast forward…through two marathons (Wrightsville Beach in March and Cleveland in May), and a 101.25-mile effort during a 24-hour race (VA 24-hour ultra run against cancer in April) I had been fighting off all sorts of injuries (knee pain, sciatica, and some tendonitis in my right foot). In June I finally had enough. Running had become so painful that I knew I had to take some time away. I shut it down on the 20th of June in hopes of resetting my body and starting a fall race calendar.

Worst of it all, I had to defer my Leadville entry. Mentally it was crushing, depressing and confidence breaking. It felt like I had failed at Leadville all over again.

I’ll be honest, although I continue to workout, riding the stationary bike five days a week, copying my run training, I’m learning a lot about life and myself but I feel I’m also losing ground.

Life, in fact, does continue. As much as I miss my daily miles…the sun still comes up, the birds still sing and the days are still filled with good times.

My butt may not have been made for biking….ha ha ha but is any butt really made for those seats?

Truthfully, I’ve enjoyed my newfound “weekend” hours to embrace my other passions.

Check out my custom medal/buckle display http://brihttp://briansrunningadventures.com/ultra-wood-designs/

I still feel connected to the running community, but I fear its slipping.

I embrace the victories of friends as they continue on the running path.

Thursday (1 Aug) will mark six weeks…the longest I have been off from running in 19 years.

I wonder if…..

Wish me luck to make it until the end of Aug, my self imposed hiatus.

Run if you can…it’s inspiring the rest of us (ME).