A runners view of the JFK 50

November 10, 2000

A runners view of the JFK 50

After running for about 10 years - not without stopping, of course - I've learned a little about the people who participate in the sport.

There are three kinds of runners. The first is the runner who prefers to run with a partner. It could be for conversation, or perhaps for safety.

The second is the one who runs alone with headphones firmly implanted into each ear, listening to Sammy Hagar or Pat Benatar; or maybe the pounding rhythms of Puff Daddy, Tavist D, or Biggie Fries (OK, so I'm not up on my rap artists).

The third is what I call the thinking runner. These are not necessarily more intellectual people. I know that because I fall into this category.


During last Saturday's JFK 50 Mile Ultramarathon, I had an opportunity to do a lot of thinking, some of which I can relate in a public forum.

Mile .00001: "I can see the leader ... I can still win this thing."

Mile .00002: "OK, winning isn't possible, maybe I should just concentrate on finishing."

Mile 3: Less than a half-mile on the Appalachian Trail. "They should have someone come through here with a leaf blower."

Mile 6: "Don't look down, stupid, you might see the clouds."

Mile 8: "If there's one word I don't want to hear, it's whirlpool."

Mile 9.6: The crowd assembled at Gathland State Park is applauding. "I'm glad they don't bring chairs, I like standing ovations."

Mile 12: "Two more words I don't want to hear are hot tub."

Mile 15: The switchbacks are a narrow, winding path littered with sharp curves, rocks and tree roots. "If I fall and break my arm, maybe my legs wouldn't hurt so bad."

Mile 15.3: "I like aid stations!"

Mile 19: A man riding up and down the towpath with a stereo strapped to the back of his bicycle playing Stars and Stripes Forever. "Well, at least it's not Neil Diamond."

Mile 21: "OK, who's responsible for making sure the Sani-Pots are stocked with toilet paper?"

Mile 23: "Was that a raindrop? If it rains, I'm really gonna get wet."

Mile 26: "AAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!" (The man on the bike is playing Neil Diamond.)

Mile 27.3: "I like aid stations a lot!"

Mile 31: "When two men run together, they can go for miles without saying a word. When two women are running together, they can go for miles without being quiet. Do they really care about how poorly cell phones work in South Carolina?"

Mile 34: "Three more words I do not want to hear: Full body massage."

Mile 35: "Blisters are not my friend."

Mile 37: "Is that an aid station I see in the distance? Nope, must be a mirage."

Mile 39: A young man is running in the opposite direction. "Is he going the wrong way, or did I get turned around in some mysterious whirlpool ... oh no, I just said that word!"

Mile 41: "I'm so tired, I think I'm delirious. Wait, nevermind, that's normal."

Mile 43: "Did those two women running past me just use whirlpool, hot tub, and full body massage all in the same sentence?"

Mile 46: "Aid stations are GREAT!"

Mile 48: "Is that the finish line I see in the distance? #$@! Another mirage."

Mile 49: "Is it possible I hear the crowd gathered at the finish line cheering from a mile away?"

Mile 49.999: The crowd is clapping and cheering as I hear my name announced at the finish line. "It's bad enough that I've summoned every ounce of energy I have left to look like a wet duck waddling to the finish line, but if I fall now, I'm really going to be upset."

Mile 50: "Whirlpool, hot tub, full body massage. Now it's OK to use those words, but none of those are in my immediate future. I'll settle for a nice hot bath and a warm bed. Goodnight."

Curt Hornbecker is a staff correspondent for The Herald-Mail.

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