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More than 1,000 runners face JFK 50 Mile challenge

November 30, 1999|By PEPPER BALLARD

Bronchitis didn't keep Julie Presas from running her first JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon on Saturday, but for nearly 11 hours, it forced the seasoned runner to cough and wheeze her way over hills, through trails and across paved roads.

Despite her tightening chest and the fact she gave up Ohio State vs. Michigan football tickets to run the race, Presas crossed the finish line smiling.

"I'm happy. I'm thrilled, but I never want to do it again," the 39-year-old Columbus, Ohio, woman said.

In a field of more than 1,000 people signed up to compete in the country's oldest ultramarathon, Presas, like many others, ran to say she ran it. The course stretches from Boonsboro to Williamsport along paved roads, the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal towpath.

Tony Cerminaro, 70, of Jermyn, Pa., ran to beat the 70-79 age group record and did. He finished in 9 hours and 9 minutes, and didn't appear winded.

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As Cerminaro spoke, other, younger runners came out of the finish line bottleneck near Springfield Middle School smiling and catching their breath.

Beside the finish line, the race announcer sat in the passenger seat of a parked camper, cheering the runners who strode toward him, and announcing their names as they pounded past him. Music from The Talking Heads was played in between.

Runners were greeted by family, friends, volunteers and dogs, and were wrapped in jackets, sweaters and blankets. Once their strong legs passed the finish line, their injuries became noticeable. Some limped. Some winced. Others just wobbled, their thighs, knees and calves a movement of Jell-O.

Tim Collins took short breaths after his finish, sipping from a water bottle and smiling widely at his 10-month-old son, Aidan, who responded with wide eyes from his stroller.

Aidan and his mother, Meg Collins, had been running their own marathon Saturday.

"I couldn't find Mountain Dew. I had to go back to Boonsboro, but luckily, I had good directions," said Meg Collins, of Canton, Mich. Aidan and Meg met Tim at each pit stop, holding out the same bottle of soda.

Collins, who has finished about 10 similar marathons, competed in the JFK for the first time Saturday. Like many runners, Collins said the Appalachian Trail portion of the trek was the hardest.

His right calf, which worked hard to maintain his footing in the leaves and rocks on the trail, stung, he said. His feet hurt, too.

Alyssa Godesky's legs pounded and sweat dripped from her face.

"The trail is brutal," she said, catching her breath after the finish.

The Annapolis native ran the JFK for the second time Saturday, and beat her personal record by 20 minutes.

As much as it hurt, the University of Virginia student said she enjoys marathons because of the challenge.

"It's just the satisfaction of knowing you can push yourself further than you think," she said. Plus, Godesky said, "It falls on the week of Thanksgiving, so you don't feel as guilty when you stuff yourself."

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