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He's 'trying to get it right'

Paul Betker ran his first JFK 50 Mile 23 years ago

Paul Betker ran his first JFK 50 Mile 23 years ago

November 16, 2005|By TARA REILLY

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

LEITERSBURG - Paul Betker said he made the mistake 23 years ago of sitting down immediately following his first JFK 50 Mile.

"The very first time I did it, I sat down ... and I couldn't stand up," Betker said.

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.

When Betker tried to stand after that first race, he said the best he could do was hunch over. Now, he said he waits about a half-hour to an hour before sitting so his body can "taper off."


While Betker, 60, has learned that lesson, he said he continues to participate in the ultramarathon "to get it right."

He said he entered his first JFK 50 in a bet with a co-worker.

"I felt like I could do it," Betker said. "I did it the first time, and I guess you can say I've been trying to get it right."

Betker has compiled quite a list of accomplishments.

His highest finish is 38th, and his best time is 8 hours, 39 minutes, 31 seconds in 1991.

He's a member of the 1,000-Mile Club, which includes 14 people who have finished the JFK enough times to amass at least 1,000 miles.

Betker, who has totaled 1,150 miles, hopes to finish this year and next year to become a member of the 1,250-Mile Club, which includes seven people.

He mixes walking and running during the event, usually walking along the Appalachian Trail, where the terrain can be difficult.

To prepare, Betker said he runs six or seven days a week, some days from three to five miles, while other days he might run 20 to 30 miles, he said.

The day after the ultramarathon, he tries to rest by limiting exercise to an "easy walk" down his road and back "just to see if everything still works right," he said.

Betker said he enjoys seeing some of the same people at the event each year.

"In some ways, it's like a family reunion," he said. "You see the same people, and you get to know them."

People travel from across the country, and some come from outside of the United States to participate, he said.

"A lot of people just do it once just to say that they've done it," he said.

The Betker file

Name: Paul Betker

Age: 60

Residence: Leitersburg

Occupation: Retired from Mack Trucks; works part time as a physcial therapy assistant

Number of JFK finishes: 23

The JFK in one word: "Tough"

Coming Thursday:

Meet Randy Ward, a 52-year-old State Line, Pa., resident who has completed the ultramarathon 14 times.

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