Student says he plans to run in JFK for the rest of his life

November 17, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

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

For an 18-year-old West Virginia University freshman who craves the discipline of the military and boarding school, running is a mission.

Neither shin splits nor the comments of some in his college dormitory will steer Tom Louderback of Hagerstown off course.

For him, the JFK 50 Mile is a battle that is fought internally.

"I felt the need to be at war with something, kind of like with myself because every athlete knows that's the highest form of competition," Louderback 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.


For the second year in a row, Tom and his father, John Louderback, will participate in the event.

John Louderback, a veteran of two races, said he could not remember who initiated participation in last year's race, which was his son's first.

"He might have said, 'I'll do it if you do it,' and I said, 'I'll do it if you do it,'" John Louderback said.

According to Tom Louderback, he and his father discovered after a training run before last year's JFK 50 that his grandmother had died. He dedicated his race to her and finished in 10 hours, 57 minutes and 25 seconds.

When talking about this year's event, Tom Louderback borrowed heavily from reflections he wrote last year. The JFK 50 was "one of the best experiences of my life," he said.

"I actually decided at mile 27 that I wanted to run this every year," he said.

Though the miles hurt as they piled up, Tom said he always knew that he would return to the endurance event.

"I've just been given a gift," he said.

While at Saint James School, Tom Louderback lettered in lacrosse, wrestling and cross country. He said he is considering joining the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at Virginia Military Institute, where he has applied to transfer.

Despite what he called a bad case of shin splints, the local teen said he has not considered withdrawing from the JFK 50.

"I understood that life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely, because now I know that I will arrive thoroughly used up and worn out," he wrote in his essay.

He vows that this year will not be his last.

"I'm going to run the JFK every year until my knees give out or I die," he said.

The Louderback file

Name: Tom Louderback

Age: 18

Residence: Hagerstown

Occupation: Student at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va.

Number of JFK finishes: One.

The JFK in one word: "Demanding"

COMING SATURDAY: Meet Larry Herman, a 40-year-old chiropractor in Waynesboro, Pa., who completed his first JFK 50 last year.

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