WILLIAMSPORT, Md. — Legend has it that following the Greek triumph over the Persians at Marathon in 490 B.C., a man named Pheidippides was sent running the 26 miles to Athens to announce the victory, then he promptly dropped dead.
That's only about half the distance participants in the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon ran on Saturday, but in fairness to Pheidippides, the Athenians sent him on a 140-mile round trip to Sparta asking for help a couple of days before that final trot to Athens.
In 2010, Tom Gozora crossed the finish line looking as if he had been in a battle, his face bloodied and teeth cracked when he fell on the Appalachian Trail just seven miles into the race. This year, there was not a mark on him, not even a blister, he said.
"It went well. I didn't fall, so that was a major accomplishment," Gozora said, flashing a repaired smile.
"Thank God for dentistry," he said.
Over the mountains and through the woods to Williamsport they came, all having started the run before or at dawn and many of them finishing after sunset. Announcers ticked off the names of runners and the states from which they came — Alaska, California, Colorado, Texas, Massachusetts, Michigan and Missouri among them.
Torin Lehmann, 21, finished his second JFK 50 Mile. He is from Sitka, Alaska, and attends McDaniel College in Westminster, Md.
One might have thought that Jerry Mason of Greencastle, Pa., would have been the only kilt-clad runner, but his wife, Suzanne, said there was another on the course.
Mason, a Scotland native, said this was his third JFK 50 Mile. He said he become involved in the ultramarathon after meeting Randy Ward of State Line, Pa., running along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.
"I've never dropped out," said Ward, 58, who was running his 21st JFK 50 Mile. That included 1995, when, he said, the course was covered with 6 inches of snow.
"It was 29 (degrees) when I left my truck" before the race, said Al Smith, 44, of Chambersburg, Pa.