W.Va. man hooked on JFK 50 ultramarathon

November 15, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

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

SCRABBLE, W.VA. - With three young children at home, moonlit runs along Scrabble Road in northeastern Berkeley County are never out of the question for Dave Braithwaite as he prepares for the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon.

"With the full moon ... it's just beautiful," Braithwaite said.

The father of four has run as late as midnight, though he prefers to carve out some time earlier in the day. If he runs at all.

Not only does Braithwaite go without any big training schedule, he never stretches before running and claims to "eat like a hog."


He said this summer he lived off of cheeseburgers and broccoli. But he claims to have eaten extra helpings of carbohydrate-loaded food in the days leading up to the race.

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.

Braithwaite, 52, said he will try to cross the finish line in less than nine hours, which would top his best time of 9 hours, 7 minutes and 8 seconds, set two years ago.

"I enjoyed turning 50," the finisher of 14 JFKs said.

A registered nurse at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Braithwaite said at least one doctor just shakes his head and tells him the 50-mile run is "too much" physical strain on his body.

Last year, he didn't develop any blisters or slip and fall, he said.

After finishing his first JFK, Braithwaite said he told himself he wouldn't do it again. But, by the time the next year's race neared, that all changed.

"Over the years, it starts calling you back again," Braithwaite said.

One year, Braithwaite struggled badly and fell a number of times.

"I should have had a sign on my head that said, 'Yeah, I'm OK,'" Braithwaite said.

After a while, Braithwaite said he learned to take his time on the 11-mile Appalachian Trail section of the run.

A Berkeley County native, Braithwaite attributes his running skills to his early teenage years at South (Martinsburg) Junior High School, where he was coached by the late Gary Brown, the namesake of an annual 5-mile run on the C&O Canal towpath.

"He just drove you," Braithwaite said. "That's why I'm still running."

The Braithwaite file

Name: Dave Braithwaite

Age: 52

Residence: Scrabble, W.Va.

Occupation: Registered nurse

Number of JFK Finishes: 14

The JFK in one word: "Christmas"

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