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Stories abound from this year's JFK 50

November 23, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- For some of the JFK 50 Mile runners profiled in The Herald-Mail last week, low temperatures and biting winds made for stiff muscles and longer times in Saturday's ultramarathon.

For others, the cold was motivation to finish faster.

For one of them, it turned a race to the finish line into a race to the emergency room.

Misti Teets, 23, of Hagerstown, said she was tackling the steep Appalachian Trail section of the 50-mile race when she collapsed with a severe asthma attack a few miles before the Weaverton aid station.

"It's that cold wind," Teets said by phone on Sunday. She picked up her inhaler at Gathland Gap and used it twice, but it wasn't helping.

"Being up on the mountain, all that cold wind I was taking in when I was trying to breathe just completely threw me into a more severe attack," she said.

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Teets fell into a tree and passed out. When she came to, someone was helping her up the path and others were running ahead for help.

Two of the people who stopped to help were Dave Sanders and Bryan Glines, members of the Washington County Sheriff's Department team featured in Saturday's paper.

"She was breathing into her headband, so I gave her my Under Armour hood thing so she could breathe into that," Sanders said.

Teets refused to let anyone try to carry her down the rocky path, but two people helped her walk to Weaverton. There, Teets wanted to get a breathing treatment and continue with the race, but an EMS crew insisted on taking her to the Washington County Hospital emergency department.

"I was crying, I was like, 'I just want to finish,'" Teets said.

At the hospital, she was given an IV and steroids, and she went home later that afternoon.

Teets, who was entering her third JFK, said she hadn't had asthma problems while running in years, and she ran on the Appalachian Trail often while training this year.

"God's will is greater than mine, I guess," she said.

Still, Teets is determined to attempt the JFK again next year, and she plans to go forward with running the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, weather-permitting.

Other JFK participants were not as sure about whether they would try it again.

Sanders, the Washington County Sheriff's Department investigator who was attempting the JFK 50 for the first time, said he thought he was underprepared, and the weather only made things worse.

"When I got up yesterday, I said it was insane to even be doing this," Sanders said. When he arrived at the start and saw on a bank sign that the temperature was 17 degrees, he felt even worse.

Ultimately, Sanders and Glines dropped out of the race at about mile 27, he said. Glines, also a first-timer, started getting sharp pains in his kneecap at about mile 22, and by mile 25, the two calculated there was no way they could finish before the time cutoff.

"Whether or not they can talk me back into it, we'll have to see," Sanders said.

The other two members of the Sheriff's Department team, Maj. Sam Billotti and Sgt. Mark Price, finished together in about 10 hours and 47 minutes, despite some spills on the trail that resulted in a broken toe for Billotti.

Price said he succeeded in his goal of beating his son's JFK time from a previous year, but he gained a new appreciation for the 50-mile feat.

Even JFK veteran Jim Becker, 66, of Greencastle, Pa., said the weather made this year's run particularly challenging. Becker, who was running it for the 17th time, finished in 10 hours and 15 minutes, his second-slowest finish ever.

Becker said the wind caused his muscles to stiffen and made every stride an effort.

"I was definitely happy to see the finish line this year," he said.

The Rev. Ed Poling said the cold weather slowed him down, but the event was a success for him in two ways. Poling, 61, the pastor at Hagerstown Church of the Brethren, crossed the finish line in 10 hours and 41 minutes, and he raised more than $3,000 in pledges for his church's Good Samaritan Fund.

Poling said watching people help and encourage each other provided the sense of spiritual connectedness he always loves about the JFK. After he crossed the finish line, he hugged the woman who put a ribbon around his neck.

"I don't usually do things like that," he said. "In that setting, you just feel so connected to people."

Poling said the finish, his 15th, puts him in the JFK's "750 Mile Club," and he's considering stopping there. Even if he doesn't run the JFK in the future, however, Poling said he plans to stay involved as a race volunteer.

Perhaps the most successful of the runners featured last week was Brad Distad, 32, who flew in from China to run the JFK for a 10th time. Distad said the jet lag worked in his favor, making him wide awake for the race's early start. Distad beat his personal best time by more than an hour, finishing in 9 hours and 40 minutes. It was also the first time he ran the entire race, walking only the 20 feet or so after each aid station.

"In the beginning it was just so cold that I ran faster to stay warm," he said.

Volunteer-turned-runner Kimberly Pack, 44, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., finished the race with a time of 12 hours and 57 minutes. Pack, who was featured in Tuesday's paper, could not be reached for a follow-up interview Sunday.

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