For Klinger, timing is everything

November 14, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

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

WASHINGTON COUNTY - When you've just run - and walked - 50 miles, there's no shame in finishing last.

There's still pressure, though: the ticking clock, which will shut you down when it strikes 14 hours.

That's how long runners have to finish the JFK 50 Mile, America's oldest ultramarathon.

The annual event, which will be held Saturday, takes participants from Boonsboro to Williamsport along paved roads, the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal towpath.

Bob Klinger got a brief jolt of panic last year when he thought he had two miles to go, then realized he had three. Forty-seven miles into the course, he had to pick up his pace. He succeeded, beating the cutoff time by 2 minutes, 19 seconds.


Klinger, 64, had never run more than 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles, in a race until a friend told him about the JFK 50 Mile five years ago.

"I'm the kind of person that likes to see a challenge in front of me," said Klinger, a human resources manager for St. Lawrence Cement in Hagerstown.

He said he needs about four months to prepare for a JFK race. Three or four times a week, he works out at the Hagerstown YMCA for strength and endurance.

On the road, he usually runs three to five miles at a time. His long run for the week is around 12 to 15 miles, which he realizes is short when a 50-mile race is approaching.

Klinger, who lives south of Funkstown, said it's equally important for a runner to train his mind.

"The mental (part) comes in long before the race," he said. "You need a can-do attitude.

"Every once in awhile (during a race), a pep talk is in order. You get confronted with all these reasons to give up."

Klinger estimates that during the race he runs about 40 percent of the distance and walks the other 60 percent.

Adrenaline and the soon-to-come thrill of achievement make the final eight-mile road stretch leading into Williamsport the easiest part, he said.

By then, Klinger is well behind the average runner. And by then, the camaraderie of running with others is over.

"They move on, and I don't," he said.

Klinger finished in last place last year. His time of 13:57.41 was nearly three minutes slower than the next two runners ahead of him.

In theory, about a dozen finishers could have run the course twice before he ran it once.

The previous year, he turned in his best time - 13:20.23, which put him ahead of 46 people who finished before the deadline and seven who didn't.

Klinger said he planned to run the JFK 50 Mile twice, then extended his goal to five. He didn't decide until the middle of this year that he'd keep going.

"It's a lot like the moth and the flame, being drawn to the candle," he said. "It's such a rush."

The Klinger file

Name: Bob Klinger

Age: 64

Residence: South of Funkstown

Occupation: Human resources manager for St. Lawrence Cement in Hagerstown

Number of JFK 50 Mile finishes: Five

The JFK in one word: "Exhilarating"

The Herald-Mail Articles