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Breckinridge alone now in front at JFK

November 19, 2006|by ANDREW MASON

I think we're alone now
There doesn't seem to be anyone around
I think we're alone now
The beating of our hearts is the only sound

WILLIAMSPORT - "I was listening to an '80s station before the race, and I heard that Tiffany song," Pete Breckinridge said. "I hate that song. I can't stand it."

That didn't stop him from singing it to himself, mile after mile, at the 44th annual JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon Saturday.

"That song was in my head, and I couldn't get it out," Breckinridge said. "I was singing the whole entire song, from beginning to end. And then I'd go back and sing it again with the refrain.

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"Who would admit that? I shouldn't have even brought it up. But it kind of fit. I was alone for a lot of the day."

It was a stunning solo effort by the 36-year-old from Norfolk, Va., who won the 50.2-mile footrace from Boonsboro to Williamsport in 6 hours, 4 minutes and 40 seconds - averaging 7:18 per mile - in his ultramarathon debut.

James Sweeney, 25, of Albany, N.Y., finished second in 6:12:37, and Hal Koerner, 30, of Ashland, Ore., placed third in 6:19:52 in the field of more than 1,000 runners.

"I never expected it," said Breckinridge, whose previous longest run was 30 miles during training. "I thought my race was over coming off the Appalachian Trail (at about 15 miles) because I was so far off my goal pace, and I felt like I had just run 25 or 30 miles."

He was in 14th place at 15 miles. And while he worked his way up to eighth place by Mile 25 on the C&O Canal towpath, he still trailed race leader John Piggott by 11 minutes.

"I didn't think I was ever going to catch Piggott. He was so far ahead," said Breckinridge, who arrived at the 34-mile aid station just seconds behind Piggott, and left it just seconds ahead of him to take the lead.

"I thought, 'Wow, I'm leading the oldest ultramarathon in the country,'" he said. "It was a pretty neat feeling, but I was also scared to death because of how far I still had to go."

Breckinridge's lead only increased as Piggott, 41, of Williamsport, Va., faded to a 13th-place finish in 6:51:08.

Barry Salisbury, 50, of Middletown, Md., was the women's winner in 8:00:31, becoming the oldest champion of the race while breaking the women's 50-and-over record by nearly 13 minutes.

Canadians Susan Hutchinson (8:10:36) and Victoria Baylis (8:23:05) - both of Ontario - placed second and third.

"I did not expect to be the first woman," said Salisbury, who placed third in 2003 in 7:57:08. "My goal for this race was to beat the over-50 record."

Salisbury, a mother of five, took the early lead and kept it until Mile 34, where she was passed by Hutchinson. She was in a generous mood when she pulled even with Hutchinson at Mile 42.

"When I caught up to her, I said, 'Do you want to finish together?' And she said, 'Yeah,'" Salisbury said. "We ran together for a few miles, but ... you just have to go at your own pace."

"She killed me," said Hutchinson, laughing. "She's the toughest 50-year-old I've ever met.

"I was cursing her later. She ruined my last five miles because I tried to keep up with her for three."

Salisbury, who earned $500 for the victory, still maintained her generosity.

"I'm giving my money to the Frederick Rescue Mission," she said. "It's a homeless shelter for men."

Breckinridge had no such companion as he made his way to the finish line, as runner-up Sweeney was just battling for second place.

Sweeney, also running his first 50-miler, was in 12th place coming off the Appalachian Trail and in fourth place off the towpath at Mile 42, barely trailing the second- and third-place runners.

"I just kept eating and drinking. I had no idea what to expect," said Sweeney, who quickly moved into second on the final 8-mile stretch of paved roads. "I'm very surprised and happy. This is the ultra to do."

Breckinridge was an All-Colonial Athletic Association track and cross country runner at the College of William & Mary.

"Then I took about a decade off," he said. "I started running again about a year ago, and I just kept at it every day.

"And I thought, 'You know what? I've always wanted to do the JFK, and I have about nine or 10 months to train. So why not now?' It was a great long-term goal to keep my interest piqued."

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