Annual JFK Ultramarathon: A winner for Washington County

November 10, 2006|by TOM RIFORD

(Special to the Daily Mail)

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau is welcoming the 44th annual JFK 50-Mile event on Saturday, Nov. 18.

According to race organizers, this year's event is the largest ultra marathon held in North America. More than 1,100 competitors will start and hundreds of volunteer supporters will be involved in the 50-mile race.

Participants are both male and female from throughout the United States and other nations.

"Teams from the Naval Academy, West Point, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Marine Corps (including units from Quantico) have all entered in pursuit of the prestigious Kennedy Cup," said Race Director Mike Spinnler. "It is awarded to the top placing military team. The finishing times of the first five runners of each military team are added up and the lowest-cumulative time wins."

For the last two years, the winning team was from the U.S. Naval Academy, however, "Marines seem to have the most wins overall," said Spinnler. "It will be tough competition for this year's military team honors."


Spinnler said that one of the pre-race favorites is U.S. Air Force Officer Mark Cucuzzella of Shepherdstown, W.Va., who could make history because no active-duty military competitor has ever won the race's overall crown.

Spinnler said competitors from more than 35 states and Canada have entered this year's field, along with several other countries.

"We frequently have active-duty servicemen and servicewomen come directly from duty stations overseas, including from Iraq and Afghanistan. We also have many racers from throughout Canada, and also from the UK," Spinnler added.

"This event brings significant international publicity for Washington County," said Tom Riford, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "To have such a prestigious event held in our county, and for the Appalachian Trail and C&O Canal National Historic Park to be a big part of the race, brings a lot of attention to our community."

Riford said that hotels and restaurants in Washington County benefit from the annual event.

"This is a big economic impact. Our local hotels are hosting hundreds of competitors from around the world during the race weekend." Host hotels for the JFK run are the Best Western Grand Venice, Comfort Suites, Days Inn, Four Points by Sheraton, Quality Inn and Suites, and Red Roof Inn.

"The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau is a proud financial sponsor of the 44th Annual JFK 50-Mile," Riford said.

Each competitor will receive an Official Welcome Packet from the CVB, which includes visitor guides, brochures, historical background of Washington County, coupons for local stores, and other information.

A "Legends" Induction Dinner and Social will be held on Friday, Nov. 17, at the Four Points by Sheraton. That evening the newest members of the prestigious JFK "500 mile club" "1000 mile club" and "1500 mile club" will be recognized.

Some racers have competed more than 20 times, four have competed more than 30 times.

The "JFK 50-Mile" event first began in 1963, and is called "America's Ultra-Marathon." It is one of the very few athletic events allowed to take place in a national park, with a large sections taking place on the C&O Canal Towpath and also on the Appalachian Trail.

Washington County Sheriffs, National Park Service and Maryland Department of Natural Resources personnel join with hundreds of volunteers on race day, helping with safety.

The race begins in the center of Boonsboro with starting times offered at both 5 and 7 a.m. The race course closes at 7 p.m.

Besides the starting line, other recommended vantage points to view the race include: Gathland Gap at the 9.3-mile marker; Weaverton Cliffs where the course crosses Route 340; the Antietam Creek Aqueduct; the Shepherdstown (W.Va.) bridge that crosses the Potomac River, and the town of Downsville at the 46-mile marker.

Spectators are reminded to park only in designated areas.

Visit the JFK's official Web site at for more information, including a course map and a complete list of entrants and their bib numbers.

Also, the race course records and historical facts are located on the web site.

For additional information about the history and heritage of Washington County, found along the route of the JFK 50-Mile, see:

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