Rhoderick takes challenges in stride during JFK 50

November 15, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

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.

o Couple plans to finish third JFK ultramarathon together

o Greencastle man hopes to complete fifth JFK 50 Mile

o Midshipman to compete in her first JFK 50 Mile

o For Kitchen, the JFK 50 is grueling and special

  • View the JFK 2009 slideshow!
  • View all of the photos for purchase!

    HAGERSTOWN -- Two years ago, Dale Rhoderick fell 10 feet while repairing a barn roof at his farm along White Hall Road and landed on his back.

    "They hauled me away in an ambulance," he said.

    Two weeks later, Rhoderick finished his 21st JFK 50 Mile endurance run.

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


Rhoderick once trudged through a foot of snow along the trail portion of the course and another time endured wind-chill temperatures of 20 degrees below zero during the race.

Personal loss didn't stop him, either.

About 19 years ago, Rhoderick's first wife, Diane, died of cancer and he dedicated that year's race to her. He twisted his ankle on South Mountain and limped through the rest of the run.

After the race, doctors performed tests on Rhoderick's ankle and told him the injury was so bad that he should not run anymore.

His response?

"I got news for you. I'm getting another doctor," he said. "I've been running ever since -- with pain."

Rhoderick, 49, said he is able to manage the pain for the 50-mile event, which he has completed 22 times. His best time of 8 hours, 49 minutes and 48 seconds came in 1998.

A tattoo on his shoulder of a shoe with wings commemorates his membership in the 1,000-mile club, a group that includes just 20 runners.

"If you do it that many times, you need branded," he said.

Rhoderick lives on a 168-acre farm that his father started. The family leases another 300 acres, but because of falling milk prices, Rhoderick, his son Art, and his brother had to give up their dairy farm two months ago.

His brother got a job driving a truck, but Rhoderick said he can't think of doing anything but farming.

"It's been all I've ever known," he said.

A cross country runner at Boonsboro High School, he got away from running when he started farming and began a family. Rhoderick's children, who also are runners, and other relatives have joined him along the JFK 50 route, and he talks fondly about his wife, Kathy.

"She's my rock," he said.

These days, he averages about three six-mile runs a week, he said.

An avid hunter who enjoys the outdoors, Rhoderick said that when fall arrives, he walks out on his deck, takes a deep breath, looks across the valley at South Mountain and thinks about the JFK 50 Mile.

"I got new sneakers," Rhoderick said. "I'm just ready for the party."

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