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Late bloomer to running competes in JFK 50 Mile out of sheer love

Jerry Mason dabbled in jogging but didn't become serious about the sport until 2004

November 13, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER |
  • Jerry Mason plans to compete in the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon. Mason has run the marathon three times before.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — Jerry Mason doesn’t run the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon to break any records. He does it for the sheer love of running.

Mason, 56, is somewhat of a late bloomer to running. He dabbled in jogging but didn’t become serious about the sport until 2004, when he ran the Halifax Marathon in Nova Scotia.

“The wonderful thing about running is you don’t get too old for it. There are some really fast people who are 65 years old. So it’s not like football or rugby, where you sort of peak at 35 or 40. You can carry on forever and it’s never too late,” Mason said in a British accent that remains intact after living in the United States for four years.

Born in Scotland and a resident of the United Kingdom, Mason lives in Greencastle, Pa. He moved to the area in 2009 for a work assignment as a field service engineer with AgustaWestland helicopters in Hagerstown.


It wasn’t until Mason met Randy Ward and Neal Hospelhorn while running on the C&O Canal towpath that he decided to compete in the JFK 50 Mile.

“They did ultramarathons, and the JFK was the big one of the year, so pretty much whatever runs they did ultimately the goal was the JFK — so I tagged along with them. So, that’s how I got into it,” he said.

Mason was 53 when he tackled his first JFK 50-miler, finishing in 10 hours and 6 minutes.

Even though he says he isn’t interested in breaking records, he’s managed to trim more than 30 minutes off his time each year — all while wearing a kilt as a tribute to his homeland.

“It’s a bit heavier than shorts, but I don’t suppose it makes much difference with that length of time,” he said.

The second year his time was 9 hours and 33 minutes. Last year, he finished in 8 hours and 46 minutes.

“It must have been some sort of fluke,” he said of lowering his best time by 47 minutes. “It was Flying Dog’s Snake Bite IPA and porridge that did it.”

While he’s been training diligently, he’s doubtful he will trim another large chunk off his time.

“I would imagine it would be hard to achieve again,” he said.

To prepare for the grueling race, he runs about five miles each evening and between 10 and 16 miles on the weekends. As the race approaches, he runs on the Appalachian Trail from Boonsboro to Weverton Cliffs with his “mates” Ward and Hospelhorn. 

Not only does Mason like to run the JFK 50 Mile because he enjoys spending training time with his friends, he also is amazed by the spectators.

“The support along the way is really quite amazing. The people that turn out, in not always nice weather, and cheer you on and provide you with peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, it’s quite amazing, really,” he said.

As Saturday draws near, Mason said he’s excited about the chance to test his stamina in an event that began to push the country back to physical fitness.

“This is the 50th year, and I feel very privileged to run it on the 50th year,” he said. “I feel very privileged that I’ve been able to run that far and to do it over the last few years, and particularly this year is very significant,” he said.

The Mason file

Name: Jerry Mason

Age: 56

Residence: Greencastle, Pa.

Occupation: Engineer at AgustaWestland

Number of JFK Finishes: Three

The JFK in one word: “Historic”

Editor’s note: This is the third 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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