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Boonsboro grad comes from China to run JFK 50

November 16, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

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

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Less than 60 hours after arriving in the United States from China, Brad Distad will stand in Boonsboro's town square prepared to run 50 miles through Washington County.

It won't be the first time the 32-year-old has made the flight halfway around the world just days before the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon. Distad made the trek last year and stayed in the United States for about five days before returning to China, where he and his wife have lived for about two years.

"It wasn't that bad," the 1994 Boonsboro High School graduate said. "I was running on adrenaline most of the time. I actually got my fastest JFK time ever, and I did it even with jet lag. When I got on the plane to go back to China ... that's when I crashed."

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The JFK 50 Mile is America's oldest ultramarathon. The endurance event, which is Saturday, takes participants from Boonsboro to Williamsport along paved roads, the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal towpath.

This will be Distad's 10th ultramarathon, and he said he hopes to finish in less than 10 hours. His time last year was 10 hours, 44 minutes, 4 seconds.

He and his wife, Jessie, work as teachers in Langfang, China, with the International English & Cultural Studies organization, where they teach oral English.

"We enjoy working with students," he said. "We don't have children of our own right now, and it was easy for us to do something like this now before we have our own children."

They won't be waiting long - Jessie Distad is expecting the couple's first child in late June or early July.

Distad said his interest in the JFK 50 Mile began in his youth, and while he sometimes ran with his father, it wasn't until his senior year of high school that he took a serious interest in running.

"I actually never enjoyed running because I was never very fast," he said.

Distad played soccer in high school and was a goalkeeper. During his senior year, he suffered a head injury and wasn't able to return to playing.

Still wanting to be part of the team, Distad ran laps around the field during practice.

"I started running more because it was all I could do," he said.

Distad said he'll continue to run as long as he is able, and he'll continue to compete in the JFK 50 Mile each year, even if it means traveling from China.

He has competed in several marathons while in China, including the Great Wall Marathon and the Beijing Marathon, which he ran in October.

"As long as I'm able to run, I want to run," he said. "As long as I have the ability to do it, I think I need to honor that ability. I run every year because I can ... because I've been given this ability, and I feel like not running would be like denying my Creator, who has given me the ability to do this."

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