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He keeps in shape for run

Randy Ward prepared for his 15th JFK 50 Mile

Randy Ward prepared for his 15th JFK 50 Mile

November 30, 1999|By BONNIE BRECHBILL

Editor's note: This is the fourth story in a six-part series about some of the people who will compete in the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon Saturday in Washington County.




STATE LINE, PA. - Randy Ward is preparing for his annual movie day.

"The day after the (JFK 50 Mile) is movie day," Ward said. "I have some lined up, and that's the only thing I'm going to be doing."

The JFK 50 Mile is America's oldest ultramarathon. The event, which will be Saturday, takes participants from Boonsboro to Williamsport along paved roads, the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal towpath.

Ward, a 52-year-old FedEx driver from State Line, finished all 14 of the JFK 50s he started. He said he runs the ultramarathon to maintain his fitness level, but mostly he does it for the love of running.

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"Any time during the year, I could go down and run the JFK," said Ward, who trains year-round.

He said he starts running in the woods eight weeks before the race to "get used to the rocks again."

The section of the Appalachian Trail is "as rough a section as I've run on anywhere, including out West," Ward said.

Ward is hoping for 45- to 50-degree temperatures, with no wind or rain.

"I think I've had every condition for that race, including snow," he said. "The trail had five or six inches of snow, and the canal area was a muddy mess."

Ward said he tries to run four times a week, in addition to three to five miles of hill workouts on his treadmill. On Saturday morning, "like clockwork, I meet other runners and we do a long run" of 16 to 24 miles, he said. His wife, Dama, runs with him on Sundays.

His best JFK finish was 10 hours, 3 minutes. In 2004, he finished 598th out of 876 finishers.

"Most people run, walk, run, walk," he said. "You have to run some; you can't cover the whole 50 miles in 14 hours by walking," he said.

The race has a 14-hour time limit for completion.

While the race requires a lot of preparation, the purse is not high, Ward said. The runners, some of whom travel great distances to run the ultramarathon, don't do it for the money.

"People who run ultramarathons just love to run," he said.

Ward started running in 1985. He was hiking in the high-altitude Glacier National Park in Montana, and "I was bent over to catch my breath," he said.

"Four older people passed me, and I asked them, 'How do you stay in shape for this?' They said, 'We're all runners.' And I said, 'I'm gonna have to become one.'"

He did, and his next hike was "a night-and-day difference," he said.

Ward has qualified for the Boston Marathon twice. He has run 25 marathons, 20 50-mile races and two 100-mile races.

"I'm fortunate that I've had no running injuries," he said. "You have to know when to back off. Your body tells you if you're abusing it."

He drinks sports drinks a day or two before a race to prepare his body, and he keeps caffeine out of his system because it is dehydrating. He takes salt pills hourly during a race, he said.

Ward said "most people think running 50 miles is a superhuman effort. I think anyone can do it if they put in some effort to train. In 14 hours, you can get the thing done. You have to eat and drink during the race or you run out of fuel. That's a big mistake a lot of people make."

After taking off the day after the race, Ward will return to work Monday. But he won't run for a week or two, he said.

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