In honor of today’s 50th running of the JFK 50 Miler, I’m recapping my race from 1997. Here’s just a tiny bit of history on how the race got started 50 years ago… In 1963, the race was just one of many 50-mile races started as an initiative by our president to get the country to once again focus on health and physical fitness (what an ambitious way to start). After the president’s assassination that very same year, most of the other races were no longer held. The JFK 50 Miler was renamed in the late president’s honor and is the only race still being run. I’m honored to have been a part of it!
Before I even had a chance to run my first marathon, Miles was
brainwashing trying to convince me to run in the JFK 50-Miler with him and his friends; and in a weak moment I committed, and I’m really glad I did. This was probably the early formation of the MilesRun Group. Running a 50-miler certainly gives you some bragging rights just for running it… as long as you finish in under the twelve-hour cut off. I planned to run it again, but it just never happened. Miles has run it ten times… Yes, TEN times, and we all have hats to prove we ran the JFK with Miles at least once!
The day before the race, my in-laws came over to watch the boys since I had to leave before Bill got home from work. I wonder what they thought when five guys came to pick me up for an overnight racing trip? We drove to Boonsboro, Maryland where we picked up our race packets, and then headed out to dinner. We had a long table of runners gathered for dinner – lots of guys and only four women. I will never forget that collective gasp when one of the ladies ordered cheesecake for dessert. I knew that my stomach would have enough problems with me running 50 miles, and I didn’t need cheesecake in there egging it on!
We got up early the next morning and started the race just before sunrise. Miles’ race strategy was for us to walk up all hills, run for 12 minutes and power walk for three minutes (although I thought we only walked one minute early on). As the race progressed, we would eventually run about nine minutes and walk for three minutes. Little did I know how much I would look forward to those walk breaks!
It had rained the night before so there were mud puddles here and there, and the leaves on the Appalachian Trail (AT) were very slippery. I spent my entire time on the AT looking at the feet of the runner in front of me, so I would know exactly where my next step was going. Here I am coming off of the AT after several steep switchbacks at about the 17-mile point. Woot woo! Only 33 miles to go!
I’m blissfully ignorant in this photo because I didn’t yet realize how much I had aggravated my IT band on those switchbacks coming off of the Appalachian Trail. I was aware of my right IT band on the decent, but nothing more. After a quick change of clothes and peeing for about five minutes, I was ready to hit the C&O Canal for 26 miles.
The two guys in red jackets, Kevin and Robert, were our main support crew. For the most part, Kevin and Robert stayed with us and carried our extra necessities on their bikes. There was also a car with other members of our crew who met us at certain points along the course.
Miles and I are in auto-pilot in this photo. Just cruising along for 26.3 miles on the nice and flat C&O Canal, admiring the beauty of the Potomac River on our left…
Looks like Miles is trying to get the fans involved and to cheer for us. Oh wait, what fans?
In the following picture we are standing to the right of one of the many amazing fuel stations. I can’t believe that I didn’t get a picture of any of them. Of course this was 1997, long before digital cameras, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and blogging; so why would I take a picture of something like that? Back to the food… Different schools and clubs competed to see who could have the best spread. Ultras aren’t just any race, so you have to have more than water and Gatorade at the stops. Most stops had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, stew or chili, crackers, cookies, M&M’s, gummy bears, water, Gatorade, and soda. Problem was, I didn’t have much of an appetite…
Farther down the canal it started getting cool and you can see that I’ve changed back into my long pants. Robert and Kevin, if you read this, thank you again for carrying my stuff!
Long before we met
Paul Mr. Incredible, we had Ron as our music man. Bet you can’t guess what he’s got playing in this photo! You got it, YMCA! BTW, does this circa-1980’s fanny pack make my butt look big?
It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A……. It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A…….
The farther down the C&O Canal I went, the more my IT band hurt. Transitioning from running to walking and vice-versa became extremely painful. I remember selling my soul to the devil around mile 34. “Just let me finish this race and I’ll……..” By the time we got off of the C&O Canal, we were given the stylish orange reflective vests to wear since it was almost dark. We only had 8.4 more miles to go on the country roads leading to the finish line. I was doing okay as long as I kept my pace at a slog (slow jog). I passed a fuel table and just sort of shoved my hand in the M&M bowl as I ran by because it was too painful to stop and start again. Little did I know at the time, but the entire ball of my left foot was covered in a blood blister. Again, no picture, but this time you’re probably happy!
Kevin rode with me for much of the way while also riding ahead to check on his wife Jenny and Miles. Thank you again, Kevin, for constantly checking on me during that last hour and for your encouragement. We finished the race in front of the Williamsport High School in the dark. Miles and Jenny pulled ahead of me in those last eight miles and I was the last one from our group to finish. I haven’t talked about Ed and some of the other runners because they were way ahead of us. Ed qualified for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run that day!
My goal was to finish the race in ten and a half hours, but that was not taking an injury into consideration. Even with a terribly inflamed IT band and huge blood blister, I somehow managed to finish in 10:50:30 (13:00 pace). The race was on November 22, and I wasn’t able to run again until early January. Once my IT band healed, it has never bothered me since!
On our way home after the race, we stopped at a Holiday Inn for dinner and there just happened to be a wedding reception going on in an adjacent banquet hall. During one of the many times I stumbled in the restroom, the bride and her bridesmaids were in there touching up their make-up, fixing their hair, etc. I walked into the restroom looking like “50 miles of bad road.” I hadn’t showered since finishing the race, I had salt all over my face, and thanks to a blood blister that covered the entire ball of my right foot, I was limping like crazy. I’m surprised I was even allowed to enter the restaurant. Once in the restroom filled with beauties, I tried to pretend that I didn’t exist and slithered into a stall, hoping that I hadn’t been noticed. One of my most embarrassing moments ever followed, but you’ll have to go on a long run with me so I can tell you. And remember, what’s discussed on the trail, stays on the trail…
- Have you ever eaten cheesecake the day before a long run?
- Do you know any of the words to YMCA, other than YMCA?
- What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Happy Running! ~ Deb