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Our runup to Saturday's JFK - Meet 7 of the runners

November 13, 2005|By JOEL HUFFER

joelh@herald-mail.com

They hail from 39 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

They will travel to Washington County from eight countries, including China and Thailand.

They range in age from 13 to 79.

Thirty of them are in their teens and seven of them are at least 70 years old.

Who are they?

They are the 1,155 entrants for Saturday's 43rd annual JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon.

The JFK 50 Mile, organized in 1963, is America's oldest ultramarathon.

The race takes participants from Boonsboro to Williamsport along paved roads, the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal towpath.

The fastest runners complete the event in fewer than six hours, but more than half of the field will take 10 hours or more to complete the course. Participants have 14 hours to cover the 50 miles and may choose a 5 a.m. or 7 a.m. start in Boonsboro.

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Last year, 876 runners - an amazing 92 percent of those who started - finished the ultramarathon.

The event has become so popular that the limit of 1,155 entries was reached Nov. 4, 15 days before the race.

So, who are these people? And what compels them to subject their bodies to the rigors of an ultramarathon?

Beginning Monday and continuing through Saturday, we will introduce you to seven people from the Tri-State area who are registered for this year's JFK 50.

Here's who you will meet:

· Robert Klinger, 63, who lives south of Funkstown. Klinger was the event's final finisher last year, beating the 14-hour time limit for completion by 2 minutes, 19 seconds.

· Barbara Hunt, 44, and Heather Hunt, 18, of Charles Town, W.Va. The mother and daughter took part in the event for the first time in 2003 on a dare. This will be the third start for each of them.

· Paul Betker, 60, of Leitersburg. Betker, who is retired from Mack Trucks, has finished the ultramarathon 23 consecutive times. He describes the event, in one word, as "tough."

· Randy Ward, 52, of State Line, Pa. Ward is a driver for FedEx in Hagerstown who has finished the event 14 times. He began running on the Appalachian Trail in September to prepare for the race.

· Rebecca Smith, 14, of Hagerstown. Rebecca is a freshman at Smithsburg High School who will be making her second attempt to complete the ultramarathon. She completed 19 miles last year before pulling a muscle in her leg.

· Liz Wood, 25, of Superior, Colo. Wood is a South Hagerstown High School graduate who has completed 11 consecutive events. She set the junior women's record of 8 hours, 56 minutes, 6 seconds in 1996.

These seven people represent just a handful of the stories among the 905 male and 250 female entrants. Thousands of race veterans have made Washington County ultramarathon memories.

And after Saturday, the 314 first-timers registered for this year's event will have a JFK 50 experience of their own to share.

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