Run for fun

A South Hagerstown High School graduate says: Believe in your dreams

A South Hagerstown High School graduate says: Believe in your dreams

December 09, 2008|By BRIGITTE GREWE/Pulse Correspondent

The annual JFK 50-Mile ultramarathon, which was held Saturday, Nov. 22, attracted more than a thousand runners from all over the United States to Washington County eager to run the Appalachian Trail course.

In 156th place out of female finishers and 697th overall, 28-year-old Liz Wood finished with a time of 11:36:39.

In 1997 at the age of 14, Wood competed in the treacherous 50-mile course and setting her fastest time record for the JFK at 8:56:06.

Wood said she enjoyed herself so much that year that she just couldn't stop participating in the JFK. Since then, she has not missed any races and has finished 15 consecutive races in a row.

Born and raised in Hagerstown, Wood graduated from South Hagerstown High School. And ever since she was young, she has loved to run. When she was in kindergarten she won first place for the 100-meter dash.


But she didn't really start running until 1994 when she was in high school. During that time, she said her best time for a mile was 5 minutes and 42 seconds.

This year's JFK was a difficult run for Wood and other participants. Battling freezing temperatures and strong winds on a long course, many had trouble completing the run. At mile 15, Wood said she experienced hypothermia. Because of the low temperatures and the type of clothing she was wearing, her perspiration froze on her body, making her numb. At the nearest mile checkpoint, she had to sit in a heated car for 10 minutes to change and warm up her body.

"It's better to finish safe and in good health then get a good time," Wood said. "Getting a good time is of course important, but to finish safely in the end is more important than risking getting sick in the future."

Although some might have questioned her sanity for putting herself through the tough course and tougher weather conditions, Wood just laughs it off. "I just thought that I must do it," she said. "I don't really think about it and just do it. Because if I keep thinking about it, then I'll talk myself out of it somehow, so I might as well just go on and do it."

For Wood, the best part of participating in the JFK is "knowing that I'm part of a historical event."

As for the difficult parts? Wood lists several reasons. "The most difficult part of running the JFK this year was having my body temperature get so low that: 1. My finger tips had no feeling, 2. My mental state was deteriorating that at an aid station I couldn't remember the name for soup, 3. My running crew and I got separated so I didn't have the dry clothes that I needed."

To keep warm, Wood had to ask for help. "I jumped into a stranger's car and begged to be allowed to sit for 10 minutes to warm myself up. I asked for dry clothing and they stripped the clothes off their back to assist me," she said. "My 15 years of ultrarunning experience taught me that this was a potentially emergency situation; otherwise I would not have been so direct about asking for help. Later in the day (around mile 42) my body was freezing up again. I asked another spectator stranger for a coat and she handed me her blanket, again right off her back and said I didn't need to return it."

Today Wood lives in Wyoming and has continued to be successful on and off the course. Wood helped her town of Sheridan, Wyo., to win the 2008 Great Places in America Award: Great Neighborhoods. The award brought national attention to Sheridan and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal came to present the award.

She also is the co-founder of hYPe (Helping Young Professionals Engage), an organization that is "dedicated to recruiting and retaining young workers and their families to work, live and play." The organization has 150 participants.

Wood said she believes young people can make a difference in their communities. She said she believes if a person wants something enough and sees a need in the community that it's possible. She said the person can take it on and take action. Teens can make it happen, she said.

She points out that young people in particular should take more action helping their communities to change. She said they can do it no matter what anyone else says. She uses her own participation in the JFK to spur her on in her own life by thinking: "Hey, I ran 50 miles, I can do this!"

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