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Woman, daughter-in-law put JFK 50 Mile on 'bucket list'

November 12, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Mary Ellis, left, and her daughter-in-law, Vicki Ellis, are competing in the JFK 50 Mile this year.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

KEEDYSVILLE — "Bucket list" was a term that came up when Mary Ellis and her daughter-in-law, Vicki Ellis, talked about why they wanted to tackle the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon.

“My husband passed away in 2010 and it was a sudden passing,” Mary Ellis said.

The death of her husband, Daniel, at age 60, prompted Mary to contemplate a bucket list — things she’d like to accomplish in life.

While Mary, 63, and Vicki, 42, don’t have actual written bucket lists, they’ve talked about running together for the grueling JFK 50 Mile.

Vicki, who lives in Mercersburg, Pa., has started the event twice, finishing it in 2008 when her original “bucket list” item of running a marathon expanded to include the JFK 50 Mile. She got halfway through the event in 2009 but could not complete it due to troubles with a knee and ankle.

The women started running together in the 1980s, along with Mary’s husband, and her son, Jason, whom Vicki was dating in high school and later married.

The pair started taking Mary’s goal of running the JFK 50 Mile seriously last year.

In addition to the personal challenge, the women are raising money through the race for the ultramarathon’s charities. Vicki raised $900 and Mary raised at least $700, they said.

Mary, who lives in Keedysville, said she was grateful to the donors and her supporters, and she is hoping she won’t let them down.

Their training has included several organized runs, including the Freedom’s Run marathon (a distance of 26.2 miles) on Oct. 13 that started at Harpers Ferry (W.Va.) National Historical Park and included the C&O Canal towpath and Antietam National Battlefield before ending in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

It was Mary’s first marathon, and she finished first among the three women in her age group (women 60 and older).

That experience encouraged her, she said.

“It really did. I don’t think I could have done it without Vicki. She was there encouraging me all the way,” Mary said. “She wouldn’t leave me. I tried to get her to leave me, but she wouldn’t.” 

Their plan for the JFK 50 mile is a mix of speed-walking and running.

Along the way, they will have support and encouragement from Jason Ellis, and Vicki and Jason’s three children.

The pair has trained on the Appalachian Trail, as well as on the canal towpath and at Antietam National Battlefield. Similar to what will be required for the JFK 50 Mile, one of their training sessions began in the dark of morning, requiring them to wear headlamps.

Asked how she felt about the upcoming event, Mary said she was scared.

“Just afraid I won’t finish,” or that she will injure a knee with which she’s had problems, she said.

The Ellis files

Name: Mary Ellis
Age: 63
Residence: Keedysville
Occupation: Ultrasonographer for Diagnostic Imaging Services at Robinwood Professional Center
Number of JFK finishes: First attempt
The JFK in one word: “Intimidating”

Name: Vicki Ellis
Age: 42
Residence: Mercersburg, Pa.
Occupation: Emergency department physician at Waynesboro (Pa.) Hospital
Number of JFK finishes: One
The JFK in one word: “Challenging”


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 C&O Canal towpath.



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