'A beautiful race'

Larry Herman likes the terrain and the camaraderie

Larry Herman likes the terrain and the camaraderie

November 18, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

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

WAYNESBORO, PA. - "Am I running with anyone?" Larry Herman asks, then pauses.

"At the JFK 50, I'll probably be running with 40 people, but I don't know any of them yet."

In that regard, the JFK 50 Mile will be like most races for Herman, 40, who owns a chiropractic business in Waynesboro.

At the same time, America's oldest ultramarathon affects his spirit in a way others haven't.

"Everyone should experience running that race. It's really a beautiful race. It has so much good in it," Herman said, ticking off a list of highlights including the terrain, crowds, length, sense of achievement and proximity to his home in Frederick, Md.

Today's 44th JFK endurance event takes participants from Boonsboro to Williamsport along paved roads, the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal towpath.


The first JFK ultramarathon was run in 1963. It was named for John F. Kennedy, the president whose encouragement of fitness inspired it.

Herman has run an average of one marathon a month this year.

He said he experienced a "waterfall of emotion" when crossing the finish line at his first 5K in August 2003 and at his first marathon in February 2004.

That waterfall subsided as Herman participated in more races. He then finished last year's JFK 50 in 12 hours, 43 minutes and 49 seconds.

"It's the only time since that first marathon that I felt that way," Herman said.

The waterfall came with the applause of family, friends and strangers at the finish line.

"You're being cheered on like you are a star," Herman said. "I felt like you probably feel when you win a race."

Herman acknowledges that he probably won't win a race in the near future, but said he is fond of the camaraderie of runners who don't set the pace.

"The most enjoyable part of running for me is the people I meet out there," Herman said.

He tells stories of connecting with people from all over the world, and learning what caused them to lace up their running shoes that day.

"Everyone's got a story. Everyone has a reason. No one says, 'I just feel like doing it,'" Herman said.

Herman's story began when he was an overweight man who couldn't reach the end of the block on a $1,000 bet that he could run a mile.

That same man, who considered running boring, remembers the date - June 23, 2003 - when he mustered an 18-minute mile on a Dallas hotel's treadmill.

Seven months later and significantly slimmer, that same man completed a marathon in Miami.

"I had 5 1/2 hours to think about how my life had brought me from there to here," Herman said.

Herman has completed the ING New York City Marathon, Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge at Walt Disney World and the Rock 'N' Roll Marathon in San Diego.

Herman has joined racing clubs, met Olympians, lost 110 pounds and launched a group to bring racing to people with disabilities ( And, he said, he feels he has added years to his life for the benefit of his four children.

Herman said he doesn't understand "no" or "fail," and is looking to the future with a 100-mile race and Ironman triathlon in 2008. He said he also hopes to complete 52 marathons in 52 weeks in 52 countries in 2016.

And, he said, the JFK 50 will remain on his calendar - as well as in his heart.

The Herman file

Name: Larry Herman

Age: 40

Residence: Frederick, Md.

Occupation: Chiropractor

Number of JFK finishes: One

The JFK in one word: "Celebration"

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