JFK 50 Miler

Nov 27th, 2010 - Having Fun - Tewksbury, MA - 3.1

Day 330 - The final 8 miles of paved road on the JFK 50 course greets you with an ungodly quarter-mile hill, difficult even on fresh legs. Throw in 42 miles before that and you've got yourself a great excuse to walk.

Katy and I took this as an opportunity to get our bearings and to get our road running legs back beneath us. The feeling of going from the 26 mile towpath to the road is equivalent to biking for a couple hours and then going for a jog. Give it a try. It's a mind-boggling and leg numbing experience.

What I would have given for my Newtons at this point. Thanks, Fil! I still love ya, buddy.

The rest of the rolling finish was laid out in front of us once we got over The Hill. Out here was just pristine farmland with all of the accoutrement's including farm animals, white fences, lush green grass, and of course, manure. Lotsa manure. Holy shit did it stank!

Our new strategy now was to run for at least one mile and walk only if we had to. We had a decent shot at finishing under 8 hours if we could manage a sub 9 minute pace over the remainder of the course. This was definitely not an impossible mission.

The new run-walk strategy lasted a whole quarter-mile for me. My quads and then my calves seized up on me and that was the end of that idea. I was immobile and couldn't take another step. Katy stopped and asked if I was OK. I told her to just keep going without me. I'd tried to catch up with her later. She didn't hesitate. Katy turned around and continued down the road looking really fresh!

I swear I could see some electronic parts sticking out of her back. Go Go Fembot!

I was now all alone for the first time all day. It was surreal standing there waiting for my leg muscles to give me back some mobility. I tried stretching and of course that's the worse thing you can do when you've been on the move for the past 7 hours and your legs have already locked up once.

Thank god I was all alone because at that very moment I let out the loudest, most blood curdling, scream that I've ever let out in public. It was on the level of Howard Dean's unpresidential-like scream that ended that career aspiration. Was this my Howard Dean?

To top it all off, the craziest thing happened. The bottom of my left foot locked up! It took the form of a claw and there was nothing that I could do to get it to relax. I even tried the line from Kill Bill, 'wiggle your big toe'. Nothing. WIGGLE YOUR BIG TOE!

It took a full two minutes before my foot finally obeyed me and I could at least walk like a man. I walked for the next half mile and when I tried running again all of my muscles would quickly lock up once more. It was frustrating.

Even though I could now barely make out Katy's mustard-stained BAA singlet about half-a-mile down the road, I could, however, definitely tell that she was making up a lot of lost ground on her competition. She was tackling each rolling hill like a ultra veteran pulling further and further away from the rest of the field. Go get em girl!

Alone with my thoughts over the final five miles, I came to the realization that I might have slowed Katy down over the course of the past few miles. She most likely hung back to keep me company when I wanted to continue with the run walk strategy. Thanks, buddy.

Other runners were now passing me left and right while also providing some words of encouragement. I probably lost somwhere between 20 to 30 pole positions during my death amrch. The turtles were now passing the hare, and deservedly so.

I also came to the sad realization that this whole thing was almost all over when I got to the aid station at Mile 47. I stood there and tried to savor the moment in between sips of chicken broth and handfuls of potato chips. After training and talking about this race for more than 320 days, it was now less than two miles from the conclusion.

I knew I had no shot at finishing under 8 hrs with 5K to go unless I could manage a 5 minute mile, which was highly unlikely considering that I've never even managed to run a 5 minute mile for one mile in my life! It was time to just enjoy it, pain and all.

The final final final (I promise) stretch of the JFK 50 starts with a nice downhill stroll through the heart of Williamsport, MD. It was basically the first sign of city life in over 8 hours. It was actually a little disorienting.

At this point I could only manage to run about 1/4th of a mile and maybe half-a-mile if it was downhill. I started to play the ultra survival game of running to the next tree, the next telephone pole, the next street cone, the next imaginary slice of pizza.

I came to a crawl with 800 meters to go hoping to save something for a respectable looking finish. I had nothing left in the tank or wheels to even pretend I had something left in the tank or wheels. It was that bad.

Going against my normally competitive nature, I jogged the final 400 meters. I didn't even bother passing one final runner who was less than two feet in front of me at the finish.

I crossed the finish line in 8 hrs 16 minutes 44 seconds and very much humbled. That was good enough for 127th place overall (1139 finishers) for a 9:57 pace per mile over the entire 50.2 miles. BYAHHHHHH!

Katy had managed to string together and gut out an amazing comeback performance the moment she left my sorry carcass back at Mile 44. She was able to leapfrog three other female runners to garner herself a 7th overall female, and 90th overall, placing, a nice trophy, and 23 seconds under 8 hours! Amazing!

She was also only two spots away from finishing in the money! So I think I owe SpeedyKittyKat some prize money, but she'll have to catch me first!

Katy's finish time was about 25 minutes over what we had projected from the start, and considering all of the mistakes that I made, I finished 40 minutes over.

We spent at least a total of 15 minutes at all of the aid stations combined and walked about 5 miles of the course (12 minute pace = 1 hr of walking!). You take away the fast start, the prolonged aid station breaks, and the constant walking and we would have had a good shot of winning the whole thing!

Well, not really, but you get the idea.

Official Results

Reno, Katy, Sasha, and the rest of Katy's family were there to greet me at the finish.

Besides asking where the F was Fil (just kidding, buddy), the first thing I said was that I would never do this again.

The last thing I write about this race is that I can't wait until next year to do it again.


  1. Wow! You make ME want to do an ultra!

    (Not really. But you make me want to do part of an Ultra.)

    Congratulations, Jason. Awesome achievement. If you were able to run the whole 50 I'd be impressed...but I'm a lot more impressed that you were able to reach down and find what you needed to keep going, when you COULDN'T run.