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They all finished the JFK 50-Mile!

Runners recount this year's race

Runners recount this year's race

November 19, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

There is a saying, Lloyd Storm says, among "the old guys" of the JFK 50, that the race doesn't really start until Shepherdstown Bridge, a good 30 miles into the 50-mile endurance challenge.

As the seven runners profiled by The Herald-Mail last week reflected on Saturday's race, many agreed it wasn't until past that 30-mile point that the ultramarathon presented its greatest challenges.

"It just starts eating you up after about 30 miles," said Dave Braithwaite, 52, who said that was when his determination to finish in less than nine hours started to backfire, in the form of intense pain in his knees and thighs.

"I went out too fast," he concluded. "The more it started hurting, the more I started running harder, which is probably not a good thing."

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Things only got worse from there as he watched people he'd passed early in the race speed past him, felt his blisters worsen and stepped in a container of water, running the final five miles with his right sneaker soaked.

By the time he crossed the finish line at 10 hours and 26 minutes, the time was the last thing on his mind.

"It feels so good crossing the finish line, it just doesn't matter," he said.

It was at about mile 38 that 13-year-old Mackenzie Riford, who was running the JFK 50 for the first time, started to have trouble breathing.

The Hagerstown teen had been fighting a cold since the middle of the week, but it hadn't given her much trouble until the last few miles along the C&O Canal Towpath.

"I just tried to run as much as I could," said Riford, who finished in 11 hours, 57 minutes.

Crossing the finish line was worthwhile, even without meeting her goal of 11.5 hours, she said.

"I was really happy," Riford said. "It was just the most incredible thing I've ever done."

For Storm, Saturday's JFK 50, his 19th, was not a record, but it was still a triumph. His time of 10 hours, 10 minutes was more than 40 minutes faster than last year, and he managed to come in before his training partner, friend and rival, who usually posts a better time.

"I was having a good day," said Storm, 67, of Clear Spring.

Paul French, 47, of Warfordsburg, Pa., said he made his goal of finishing in less than eight hours.

"It wasn't pretty, but I got it in," said French, who was running for the 20th time.

He got leg cramps early in the race, which slowed him down, but he pushed himself, and running buddies stationed along the way kept telling him "you can still do it."

"It just brought back memories of the days where I struggled," said French, who has been in the top 10 five times. "I just looked back on those days and thought, 'I did it back in those days; I can do it again.'"

French finished in 7 hours, 53 minutes.

For Beverly Kornides, 50, of Boonsboro, the race was, once again, a chance to meet people and learn from them along the way. She ran with a 73-year-old woman, a public health worker from Japan, a man from Quebec and a former football player.

One of the first things she did after recovering was go online to search the results list and find out how all her new friends fared.

Kornides, who finished in 12 hours, 56 minutes, isn't positive whether she will attempt the JFK again next year, but if she does, she hopes her son will be able to come home from college to cheer her on again.

"I told him he has to find a college that gives him a week off at Thanksgiving," she joked.

From the law enforcement contingent, Maryland State Police trooper Douglas Bittinger said he and Sgt. David Bowers didn't break their own records, but were still satisfied at the end of the race.

"Any finish is a good finish," said Bittinger, 39, who said he paced himself with finishing as his only goal.

"At that brief moment in time, you forget about all your pain and everything," he said.

Waking up Sunday morning, like many of the runners, he said his whole body ached and everything was stiff.

"I feel like a 90-year-old man," he said.

The JFK veterans have some wisdom to share about that, too.

"You can learn a lot about yourself when you push yourself to your limits," Storm said. "It's sort of like life. You don't get anywhere without some effort."

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