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For Kitchen, the JFK 50 is grueling and special

November 16, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

Editor's note: This is the second 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 Rhoderick takes challenges in stride during JFK 50

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

    MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The custom license plate on the back of Ray Kitchen's blue pickup truck says it all: RAYRUNS.

    Since finishing third in a two-mile race for employees of Corning Glass Works nearly 25 years ago, Kitchen has competed in more than 500 events in 23 states, including 10 Boston Marathons.


On Saturday, he will attempt to finish the JFK 50 Mile for the 14th time.

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

"It's special," Kitchen said.

He completed the race each year from 1992 to 2001, and called the grueling event "habit-forming."

"You get such a high when you finish that (race)," Kitchen said.

After becoming a member of the 500-mile club, Kitchen said he decided to volunteer instead of race, but he returned to the course after four years on the sidelines.

"I missed it so much. I felt I was cheating people," Kitchen said. "I saw these people out there, putting out the effort ... and here I was just enjoying myself."

Kitchen, 64, has fallen three consecutive years on the Appalachian Trail, but said he prefers the challenge of the terrain to the "boring" C&O Canal towpath.

"It takes me about three days (after the race) to actually walk right," Kitchen said.

His best time of 8 hours, 25 minutes and 29 seconds came in 1994.

Kitchen credits the late Roy Elder, whom he described as a close friend, for convincing him to enter his first JFK.

Kitchen said his wife, Melinda, has been very supportive of his racing.

"We would plan our vacations around races on weekends and so forth," he said.

Kitchen once received a frozen turkey as a prize at a race in Nevada, but rather than attempt to take it home, he had event organizers donate the bird to the less fortunate in the community, he said.

To prepare for the JFK, Kitchen begins training in July. He ran a half marathon (13.1 miles) last month. He said he tries to eat a lot of pasta the day before the race, and on the morning of the race, he eats a PowerBar.

"I could not do this, except for the grace of God," Kitchen said.

The Kitchen file

Name: Ray Kitchen

Age: 64

Residence: Falling Waters, W.Va.

Occupation: Retired

Number of JFK finishes: 13

The JFK in one word: "Grueling"

Coming Wednesday: Meet Brittany Churchey, a North Hagerstown High School graduate and U.S. Naval Academy junior who is running her first ultramarathon.

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