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Lundblad joins wife as JFK 50 Mile champ

Lundblad joins wife as JFK 50 Mile champ

November 23, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

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WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Anne Lundblad was the first female to cross the finish line in the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon in 2007.

On Saturday, she was first to affectionately congratulate the overall winner following the 46th edition of America's oldest, largest ultramarathon.

Anne greeted her husband, Mark, with a giant hug at the finish line after he covered the 50.2-mile course in 6 hours, 7 minutes, 9 seconds to win his first JFK in his fourth attempt.

"This is one or two," said Mark Lundblad, describing the personal importance of the win. "It was a war of attrition. It certainly wasn't that I sped up but I think the conditions got to some of the other guys."

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The runners suffered through freezing temperatures and blustery winds to finish the historic race.

Anne Lundblad -- winner of the JFK in 2005 and 2007 -- took a break from the event this year and helped her husband through his best JFK performance. She paced the finish line as it was announced Mark was leading the field with only two miles left.

"I used to do a lot of marathons and then I met Anne seven or eight years ago and she gave me the bug for ultras," said Mark Lundblad, 39, of Swananoa, N.C. "We do a lot of long runs together. Anne is really good about the mental things."

No other runner was in sight as he covered the last kilometer.

"About two miles out I had a four-minute lead and unless I fell, I was going to win," Mark said. "During the last eight miles I knew I had the lead and I just needed to focus."

Mark Lundblad passed Johan Oosthuizen, 35, of Middleburg, South Africa, with about nine miles left, just before the course leads to paved, rolling roads to the finish line.

"(Oosthuizen) said something to me. I think he said, 'Go for it!' but I couldn't really understand his accent," Mark Lundblad said.

Oosthuizen fell to a fourth-place finish behind second-place Oz Pearlman, 26, of New York City. (6:13:18) and third-place Teague O'Connor, 25, of Burlington, Vt. (6:14:58).

Oosthuizen led the entire race before being passed by Lundblad.

"(Lundblad's) approach was technically right. That's a guy who ran a smart race," said Oosthuizen, who finished in 6:17:31. "I told him, 'Go! You look great! Go for it!' And as the others passed me, I said the same things.

"I made a huge mistake by running the Appalachian Trail too hard. I was in great shape, so it wasn't my fitness. I just made a calculated mistake."

Anne Lundblad decided not to defend her JFK title, which meant a new female champion would emerge. That woman was 45-year-old Connie Gardner, of Medina, Ohio, who finished in 7:15:16 to win her third JFK. She also won in 2002 and 2004, making her 3-for-5 in the historic event.

Susan Graham-Gray, 40, of Greencastle, Pa., came in second in 7:32:56.

"It was a lot of cold. I just had to run it the same way I always do," Gardner said. "I'm not very good on the Appalachian Trail so I just tried to get to the Towpath and run my marathon."

Gardner gained little on the Towpath, but she didn't need it. She was leading by about 20 minutes after coming down Appalachian Trail.

"That's when I thought it was going to be a good day," she said.

Graham-Gray, who is legally blind with 20/500 vision, was the top female finisher in the Tri-State. Andy Mason, 36, of Hagerstown was the top male finisher in the area (10th, 6:40:32), followed by Mark Cucuzzella, 42, of Shepherdstown, W.Va. (11th, 6:45:48).

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