49 years. Other than some participants, not much is older in our sport of ultrarunning than the JFK 50 miler. The event began as part of a series of challenges created by JFK to… well, you can read the brief history here. The history of this race is remarkable, right down to the legends who loyally return most years for this classic, including Eric Clifton, Ed Ayres (In the 1977 photo left in the back with green singlet and 70 yrs old this year), and Ian Torrence.
Over 1,100 runners will be pounding the pavement, gravel toe path, and Appalachian Trail, starting in Boonsboro and finishing in Williamsport. Weather in Maryland this time of year is unpredictable, at best. Forecast for race morning is a comfortably cool 50 degrees with partly cloudy skies, near perfect conditions for a fast race. Race-addicted Michael Wardian returns this year presumably focused on redeeming himself for last year’s 6th place finish in 6:12. Coming off two quick marathons run within seven days (2:26 and 2:22, both 2nd places), Wardian will toe yet another start line with a self-inflicted handicap, which must scrub at least some of his raw speed off his performance. Poised to take advantage of the situation is last year’s 2nd place JFK finisher, David Riddle. Riddle finished one minute off the win in 5:53, one of only two instances when he’s finished with anything lower than a win in his ultra career. Of course, David will have to contend with several other speedy dudes, including Andrew Henshaw, who handed David his only other 2nd place finish earlier this year at Mad City 100k.
For the ladies, let’s ride the wave of Meghan Arbogast’s impressive season. She’ll have her hands full in the rematch with the Blue Ridge Mountain runner, Annette Bednosky. They did America proud at the 100k world champs, coming in 5th and 6th respectively. The last time they raced JFK in 2009 they duked it out for 2nd and 3rd (behind Devon Crosby-Helms). With the bulk number of participants, there’s always openings for new “unknowns” to break out. One of my dark horse picks is Cassie Scallon. Not an unknown by any stretch, but faded off the scene a bit this year until just last month with her win (overall) at Glacial Trail 50k.
Gook luck to all the runners at this classic!