Woman's decision to run in JFK 50 a family effort

November 14, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

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

BOONSBORO - Beverly Kornides has always taught her children to confront challenges head-on.

So, last year, with her 50th birthday approaching, when a friend suggested going to watch the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon, Kornides saw an opportunity.

"I thought this would be a way to show them there's nothing so big you can't overcome it," Kornides 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.

The race was the latest in a series of personal challenges for Kornides, who has always been athletic but didn't get into serious running until about 20 years ago. She entered her first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, in 2001 and has since completed seven others.


But until last year's JFK, she had never run an ultramarathon - one longer than the standard 26.2 miles - and she had never run on trails, where sticks, rocks, roots, boulders and switchbacks dictate the stride and pace.

Her son, Robert, then a junior at Boonsboro High School, thought she was crazy. He worried she would break her leg running down the steep trails. Her husband suggested she stick with marathons or, better yet, half marathons.

But once they saw how determined Kornides was, her family became enthusiastic supporters.

Her husband rode his bike alongside her as she trained. When Kornides opted to start the race at 5 a.m. to give herself more time to finish, he volunteered to run the first few cold, dark miles with her.

And Robert volunteered to drive the entire course.

"I saw him at least every four or five miles, bringing me my Gatorade and ibuprofen," Kornides said.

She also got support from running buddies and - during the long, monotonous 26.3-mile stretch of the C&O canal - from strangers who struck up conversations.

There was another woman running for the first time, also about to turn 50 with children approaching adulthood. And there was the Army officer about to head to Iraq for the third time who thanked Kornides for sharing her turkey sandwich with him when it was all she could do to thank him for his service to the country.

For much of that stretch, she walked one mile for each four she ran, but for the final few miles, she was too eager to finish to stop to walk.

"It starts to get dark, and it gets eerie," she said. "The shadows become very fall-like, the wind picks up, and you feel a little chilled. All you want to do is see the light of Williamsport High School and be done with this event."

When she met her family at the finish line, coming in at 12 hours, 32 minutes and 57 seconds, she knew it had been worthwhile - and that she would be doing it all again this year.

"I feel so blessed that I have the ability to participate in this kind of event," she said. "And I know it's very inspirational for my kids."

The Kornides file

Name: Beverly Kornides

Age: 50

Residence: Boonsboro

Occupation: Physical therapist

Number of JFK finishes: One

The JFK in one word: "Event"

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