Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The 2012 JFK 50 Mile: 50 Years of Ultrarunning History

I get asked this a lot:  Ian, why do you always return to JFK?  Frankly, this is the best way I can explain it.  In 1994 I picked my first ultra and the ultra I chose would rise like no other.  By pure happenstance I was laid comfortably in the arms of the JFK 50 Mile, one of the biggest, most competitive ultras in North America.  Do well at this race and you're golden.  Need an entry to Western States, need a qualifier to join the National 100K Team, need a shoe sponsor, or points for your Ultrarunner of the Year vote:  run JFK.  Do well and JFK will provide.  It wasn't always like this...

When I ran JFK for the first time you could have strolled down to Boonsboro High School on race day morning and entered the race for $100.  A hefty price back then, but totally reasonable now-a-days.  Today there's a lottery and it's tough to get in.  In my newbie ultra experience my ultrarunning hero, Eric Clifton (who would never gain a shoe sponsorship), would set a course record that would stand for 17 years!  Those that finished behind him that year were no joke either:  Carl Anderson (Ann Trason's husband and long time record holder of the Quad Dipsea), Mike Morton (Western States winner and 24-hour American Record...need I say more), David Horton (hello Trans Am, AT, and PCT), Tom Rogozinski (the youngest Trans Am finisher at 22 yrs.), Courtney Campbell (who would go on to win the 1999 JFK), Frank Bozanich (again, please don't even ask, so many American and course records it's dizzying), Barry Lewis (this guy has done it all successfully), Hinte, Lieb, Drach, Canadian Michalack, Zaruba, and Shilling (hey, why not win the Speedgoat 50K 16 years later).  Multiple top-ten finisher Carolyn Showalter (please look at this JFK rap sheet) would win the women's race in under 8 hours that year.  This would be my introduction to ultrarunning...and after that race I would clearly never be able to get enough.

So, yes, my annual pilgrimage occurred once again this year.  No matter where I'm living, what I'm doing, how good or bad I feel I've been lucky enough to make it to Boonsboro for each of the past 19 JFK 50 Mile races.  This year produced my 18th finish and my 14th sub-7 hour performance.  I'm proud of this and I'll have no problem blurting that statistic out while out on the town.  However, what makes the event, for me, is my innate ability in wrangling a handful of unsuspecting compadres into meeting me at that start line in western Maryland.  I promise them a glorious experience along the Appalachian Trail, C&O Canal, some of the finest rolling backroads Maryland has to offer, the largest and one of the most competitive fields in North American ultrarunning, but, most importantly, a chance to become part of ultrarunning history!  JFK has never disappointed and this year would be no different.  Course records would fall on the men's and women's sides.  Names like Ellie Greenwood, Max King, Trent Briney, and Emily Harrison would now forever ring in the ears of anyone and everyone who breaths ultrarunning.   Per usual, the weather would prove ideal and 967 runners would successfully find the finish line in Willamsport, MD.

So, Ian, why do you always return to JFK?  My answer:  Quite's a different race every year and I have fun being a part of it.

The amazingly fast 2012 race results can be found here.

Fellow masters ultrarunner (I love that I can say this now) Andy Jones Wilkins quizzed me on my latest finish.  Find that Inspired Stubbornness interview here on

You know the drill...the rest of the story follows in pictures (photo credits to the David Riddle family, Ray Jackson Jr., Jo Weakley Agnew, and Geoffrey Baker Photography):

Pre-race dinner with those I roped in to joining me in Maryland:  Josh Brimhall, Shad Mickelberry, and Emily Harrison.

Seconds before the start...No problem, I'll be the only one faced in the other direction.

And they are off...

Running through downtown Boonsboro.

Zach Gingrich, Josh Brimhall, and Trent Briney (2nd place overall) on the early miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Doing my thing on the AT.

Josh and Emily hit the pads in Weverton in 1:57.

Passing through Weverton aid station.

Max King (winner and new course record holder) rolling on the Canal.

Doing my thing on the Canal.

Ellie Greenwood wins, sets a new course record, and high fives her crew chief, David Horton (see above), in the JFK finish chute.

Two class acts (Greenwood and Harrison) congratulate each other upon finishing and running the two fastest JFK's ever.

Congratulating Blake Benke on his 12th JFK finish.

These ladies ain't no joke.

Your Moment of Zen

She so wanted to run with.  Don't worry Z I'll get you one of those orange vests so you can pace me next year.


Shane Lapan said...

Have a large amount for breakfast and take some supplements is a good start for all the runners. Oldies can run too for this event. That ain't no joke. I'm proud of them.

payperhead said...

I didn't know how important the JFK is to America runners. I didn't expect that It can open doors to different races.