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Many strive for personal best in JFK race

November 20, 2005|By TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Dave Hoch hoped to reach a 50-50 milestone.

Hoch, of East Brunswick, N.J., wanted to finish Saturday's 43rd annual JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon to complement turning 50 this year.

But his nagging Achilles tendon wasn't cooperating.

By the 30th mile, Hoch realized he could go no farther.

Hoch turned around and made his way back three miles to the water station he had just passed, where he informed an official that he would be dropping out.

"I just had to make a decision at some point," Hoch said while on the C&O Canal towpath at Antietam Creek, along Canal Road near Harpers Ferry Road in Washington County.


The water station there marks the ultramarathon's 27th mile, officials at the site said.

Hoch said after he completed the portion of the event that runs along the Appalachian Trail, "I was more chewed up than I should have been."

Hoch said this year was his first attempt at running the JFK 50 Mile, and he's considering doing it again next year.

For about as long as the Antietam Creek water station was open, relatives and friends of race participants gathered along the towpath to cheer them on.

Some carried signs of encouragement, and most carried refreshments, medicine, energy bars and other snacks to provide fuel for their loved ones to finish the remaining 23 miles.

But not all sights along the towpath were as pleasant.

As one injured man approached the stop, another man who came to his assistance called out for medical help. The participant had fallen along the JFK route, and blood had been dripping down the left side of his face.

The man's index finger on his left hand appeared to be severely broken, and his injury was called in to emergency officials as a compound fracture.

The man, who for a few minutes sat along the towpath with his head down, was taken away in an ambulance a little while later.

Later, a female participant reached the water station with blood dripping down her left leg onto her sock.

"Who has the first aid?" she yelled out.

Royce Sherlock was one of the last people remaining on the towpath. Sherlock, of Arlington, Va., was waiting for her husband, Paul, to run by.

"We think we might have missed him," she said as she stood with her children, James, 2, and Lucille, 6.

She said the family was there to cheer him on.

Sherlock said her husband's first JFK 50 Mile was last year. He finished in 10 hours, 40 minutes.

Not familiar with the rural roads that led to the Antietam Creek stop, Paul Lake of Grass Valley, Calif., also thought he missed his wife, Vicki Lake.

A few minutes later, his wife arrived at the stop, where he briefly assisted her before she continued along the towpath.

He said he was planning to go to several of the stops to provide assistance to his wife, who has run in other ultramarathons and marathons. She completed the Portland (Ore.) Marathon in October, he said.

"She does run quite a bit, and yoga and bicycling ..." he said.

Lake said he "wasn't exactly sure" why his wife decided to participate in the JFK 50 Mile, but that they planned to leave this area and head to New England to visit family on Thanksgiving.

The event might have been something to do along the way, he said.

Steve Mentzer, 40, of Allison Park, Pa., near Pittsburgh, said he entered this year's race to beat last year's time.

Last year, in his first JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon, Mentzer finished in 10 hours, 10 minutes.

He said he wanted to finish the race in less than 10 hours.

"It's demanding, that's for sure," Mentzer said, as he briefly rested at the towpath's Antietam Creek stop.

To help him through the race, Mentzer said he divides the event into three phases - 16 miles on the Appalachian Trail, 26 miles on the towpath and the final eight miles on the road.

"Once I get off the towpath, as far as I'm concerned, eight miles of road running isn't a big deal," he said.

Joe Poliquin, 53, of Moriah, N.Y., wasn't expecting to beat his best time of 9 hours, 6 minutes, but he didn't mind.

"Today is a beautiful and glorious day," Poliquin said. "It's just a lovely place to run."

This year was Poliquin's fourth time in the JFK 50 Mile, and he said he has been in several other races.

"I just kind of keep going," he said.

And while the JFK 50 Mile might be difficult for some, Poliquin said he didn't think he would need much time to recover.

"I'll be running before the week's end," he said.

Coming Monday: Find out how the seven Tri-State competitors profiled by The Herald-Mail fared on race day.

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