The JFK 50 Mile is America's oldest ultramarathon. The event takes participants from Boonsboro to Williamsport along paved roads, the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal towpath.
John Louderback, 53, first ran the race in 2001, when he posted his best time of 11 hours, 45 minutes, 41 seconds.
"I thought he was insane," Sarah, 19, said in a telephone interview from Clemson (S.C) University, where she is a sophomore. "I maintained the perspective that this was crazy. Then Tom got into it, and Ben started last year."
While home for spring break this year, Sarah went for a run.
"Clearly, the endorphins got to me," she said, explaining it was then that she decided to sign up for the JFK.
Wife and mother Kris Louderback is the "support team" and always worries about the person running for the first time, Tom, 21, said.
Last year, Ben, 15, used a cane to get around for a while after he finished his first JFK. John said he also had a hard time walking after his first finish in 2001.
This year, they will probably hand the cane to Sarah, Ben said.
John ran three marathons in four weeks this fall, including the Oct. 3 Freedom's Run in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
"I'm trying to keep up with these two," John said as he stood between his sons.
Tom joined his father for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., in late October. He ran in his first JFK in 2005 and has missed only one since. His best time of 10:13:45 came in 2006.
He said he now has an interest in running longer ultramarathons of 75 or 100 miles.
He plans to run with friends Alan Downs, Brittany Churchey and Jackie Palmer, and hopes to finish in less than 10 hours, he said.
Ben, a varsity athlete at Saint James School, said he ran the JFK last year because he wanted to beat his father.
He did, finishing in 12:22:02, 17 seconds faster than John.
This year, Ben plans to run with Sarah for a while and hopes to finish in about 10 1/2 hours.
Sarah said she wants to try to complete the race in less than 11 hours.
"I don't look at it as 50 miles. It's this mental battle," she said.
Sarah said she sees the race as a metaphor for life.
"When you're broken down .... you're the one who has to pick yourself up, push yourself through it. People are there to support you, but you're the one who has to deal with the pain," she said. "Ultimately, you're the one who has to choose to keep going."
Tom echoes his sister when talking about the mental challenge of the race.
"Life is a struggle. Life will always be a struggle," he said.
John said he prays during the 11 or 12 hours of running.
"I say hundreds or thousands of prayers, for everyone I know and everyone I have ever known," he said. "I stopped praying for myself years ago. God has been very good to me."
Name: John Louderback
Number of JFK finishes: Five
The JFK in one word: "Family"
Name: Tom Louderback
Number of JFK finishes: Three
The JFK in one word: "Friends"
Name: Sarah Louderback
Occupation: Student at Clemson (S.C.) University
Number of JFK finishes: First attempt
The JFK in one word: "Mental"
Name: Ben Louderback
Number of JFK finishes: One
The JFK in one word: "Epic"
Coming Sunday: Complete race coverage.