Editor's note: This is the fourth story in a five-part series about some of the people who will compete in the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon Saturday in Washington County.
Waylan Showe's approach to running long distances is far from regimented.
A few years ago, he was so impressed with people who can run a 50-mile race in one day, he decided to try it himself. He had only run short distances, such as in gym class, but he wasn't intimidated.
He signed up for the JFK 50 Mile and started running — whenever he could, however far he felt he could go that day. He didn't set a specific training schedule or goal.
He only estimates, based on time, how far he goes on training runs.
"I just kind of wing it," he said.
The JFK 50 Mile takes participants from Boonsboro to Williamsport along paved roads, the Appalachian Trail and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath.
Showe, 24, who lives near Sharpsburg, finished the race in 2009 — his first attempt — in 11 hours, 33 minutes, 41 seconds.
He finished with less than 27 minutes to spare. Runners who start at 7 a.m., as he did, have 12 hours to finish the run or they must leave the course.
Showe figures he trained about six months, off and on, for that race, more off than on. He sometimes went a week or two at a time without running. As a very rough guess, he figures he ran about 150 to 200 miles total in his training.
The worst part of that first race, Showe said, came as he finished the first 15 miles, most of which are on the Appalachian Trail, and was about to hit the C&O Canal towpath for the next 26 miles.
"There was definitely a point when I felt like dropping out," he said.
He was hungry and felt some pain, mostly in his knees. But, he said, he ate some candy at an aid station, giving him energy to forge ahead.
He did better last year — in his second JFK 50 Mile — cutting his time from 2009 by more than hour. He finished in 10 hours, 27 minutes, 3 seconds.
Showe said he prepared more for the second race — running 15 to 30 miles most weeks — and started earlier in the year. He put in about 300 to 400 miles before the 2010 race, he guessed.
It's hard to predict what will happen this year. Showe said he has trained less than he did in 2009 or 2010.
He only learned at the end of October that he was guaranteed a spot in this year's race. At first, he was on a waiting list.
As of a week ago, his plan was to do one long run of about 10 to 15 miles, then rest his body in the last few days before the race.
Showe said running the JFK 50 Mile gives him an adrenaline rush.
Recalling his first finish, he said the race is challenging, but satisfying.
"Mentally, you've just got to push through it ..." Showe said. "It had its ups and downs. I said a lot of prayers."