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First-timer challenging himself to run JFK 50 Mile

November 15, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Jim Hennigan holds his daughter, Georgia, after finishing the Frederick Marathon in May 2010.
Submitted photo

SHANNONDALE W.Va. — Jim Hennigan has been training since July for his first attempt at the JFK 50 Mile, and the 36-year-old is realistic about his expectations.  

“I’m not going to win this race, but I am going to challenge myself,” he said. “For me, it’s just knowing that I can push my body that far.”

Henningan — who at 6 feet tall and 225 pounds doesn’t fit the stereotype of distance runners — came late to marathons, making his first attempt in October 2009 at Freedom’s Run in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Before that, his longest run was eight miles when he was a member of a high school track team in New Jersey, he said.

He ran on and off for years “just for fitness,” he said.

In the summer of 2009, he met Pat Schneble when the men were attending birthing classes with their wives. Schneble talked him into running the inaugural Freedom’s Run.

Hennigan began a 12-week training program that included 10-mile runs.

“It hurt. I thought I would die, but my family and friends kept encouraging me. I ran the race in four hours and 34 minutes,” he said. “What an unbelievable feeling it was to finish. I was hooked.”

Hennigan has run three more marathons, including Freedom’s Run again last year, and the Marine Corps and Frederick marathons. He said if he had not been on vacation he would have run Freedom’s Run again this year as training for the JFK 50 Mile.

Hennigan said he put in 16 weeks of dedicated running to prepare for the event. He runs 10 miles around his neighborhood before work three days a week and runs two more days on a treadmill near his job in Sterling, Va.

“I leave for work in my running clothes at 5 a.m., get on the treadmill, then shower and dress for work,” he said.

His training schedule includes 16- to 26-mile runs on weekends with the “hurt group,” a small local contingent of long-distance runners, he said.

Hennigan downs a whey protein shake after running, plus some junk food to replace any salt he’s lost. Before a big race, he loads up on carbohydrates, salt and water, he said.

Hennigan said an injury in the Frederick Marathon led him to abandon conventional running shoes for minimalist or barefoot running shoes, which are flat with little or no padding. The shoes mimic the mechanics of running barefoot by allowing the balls of the feet, not the heels, to hit the ground first.

The Hennigan file
Name: Jim Hennigan
Age: 36
Occupation: Telecommunications engineer
Number of JFK finishes: First attempt
The JFK in one word: “Monumental”

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a five-part series about some of the people who will compete in the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon Saturday in Washington County. The event takes participants from Boonsboro to Williamsport along paved roads, the Appalachian Trail and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath.

Coming Thursday: Meet Laurie Dymond, a 45-year-old mother of three from Chambersburg, Pa., who finished 18th in the women’s field last year.

Watch live video from the finish line Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. at

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