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Nippert wants JFK 50 course record to be his

November 17, 2005|by ANDY MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

Howard Nippert is bringing enough credentials to Saturday's 43rd annual JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon to match his swagger.

Nippert, 40, of Fork Union, Va., has run for Team USA seven straight years at the 100K World Cup, the most competitive ultramarathon on the planet, and has been the top U.S. finisher at the last four. He placed eighth in the 2005 edition, in Japan in June.

He's run 10 ultramarathons in the United States and won every one.

Winning, however, isn't Nippert's top priority Saturday. He's been there, done that.

In 1998, Nippert won the JFK in 5 hours, 58 minutes, 20 seconds, a time that ranks eighth on the all-time list of JFK performances.

Nippert wants to be ranked No. 1.

"I try to pick the big U.S. races and try to only go to them once," Nippert said. "If I win and get the course record, I don't need to go back. If I don't get the course record, I need to come back."

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The JFK record is 5:46:22 - set in 1994 by four-time champion Eric Clifton.

"I would call sub-6 at the JFK world class. And 5:46:22, that's just phenomenal," said JFK race director and former champ Mike Spinnler, who owns the No. 2 time (5:53:05) from his 1982 victory. "Many guys don't give that mark the respect that they should. There's a reason it's stood for 11 years, and nobody's come close to it. Quite literally, nobody's ever come within a mile of that record.

"But Howard Nippert could be the guy to beat it. He's America's best."

Nippert, who owns personal bests of 29:15 for 10K and 2:19:08 for the marathon, said the JFK - which begins in Boonsboro and ends in Williamsport - is America's best ultramarathon.

"It's by far the best ultra in the U.S. that I've seen, been to or heard about," he said. "I'd like my name in the record book for the best race in the country. And in no way am I saying it's an easy record. I respect it enough that I want it to be mine."

History, however, is not on Nippert's side.

"Guys blow up," Spinnler said. "There's a history of that in the JFK - guys trying for records and blowing up and not just missing the record, but not winning the event and sometimes not even finishing. When you take a shot at the record, there's a gamble involved, and Howard knows that."

Nippert doesn't seem worried about the risk.

"Not having a good race is not an option," he said. "I don't allow it to be an option."

If so, the real battle Saturday might be for second place.

"I know I'm not going to win," said Ian Torrence, 33, of Boulder City, Nev., one of the country's most prolific ultrarunners and last year's JFK runner-up. "It's never done until it's done, but Nippert usually does what he wants to do. He says what he's going to do and does it. He's pretty intimidating."

Even at the age of 40.

"I'm just getting meaner," Nippert said.




Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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