He did it! Jeff completed the JFK 50 on Saturday in freezing temperatures and with a great attitude. What a day!
We got to our hotel in Hagerstown around 11 p.m. on Friday. We simply went to bed — we were both tired and anxious to get some sleep before the big day.
The alarm went off at 5 a.m., and we both bundled up. Jeff ate about half a bagel and drank a Naked Juice. We left the hotel around 5:25 a.m. to drive to the school in Boonsboro where the packet pick-up and pre-race meeting were. We got a decent parking place, picked up Jeff’s packet, and joined the hundreds of other runners in the gymnasium for last minute instructions. The race director reminded the runners of some important details and recognized race veterans — people who have competed in the JFK 50 for several years. It was impressive. A young man next to us stood as a veteran of this race and admitted he was trying to complete it in 6:45, a phenomenal time. (He met his goal, by the way!) At that point, Jeff was feeling relaxed and ready to go!
Then, we were off. The start line was probably 1/2 a mile or so from the school, so we began the brisk walk into downtown Boonsboro. This bank time-temperature sign was a popular stop-off for photos! It was cold!
We got to the start line just in time. By the time I walked the extra half block to find a spot along the road, the starting pistol had been fired, and the runners were off!
I quickly bustled back to the hotel to take a shower, dress in my warmest clothes, and eat some breakfast. Shortly before 9 a.m., I was back in the car and headed to mile 15, the first spot where I would see Jeff. At this particular location, the runners were coming down off the Appalachian Trail through a series of switchbacks. The small country roads that allowed us to get close to our runners were jammed full of cars, and I had to park at least 1/2 mile away. The walking actually helped keep me warm, so I really didn’t mind too much.
Jeff looked great at this point and seemed in good spirits. He was about 30 minutes off his desired pace, but I knew the AT portion of the race would probably be the most challenging in regards to terrain. I was thrilled that he seemed to be doing so well.
I saw him again at mile 27. By this time, the runners were on the C&O Canal, a dirt/gravel, completely flat towpath. At this particular juncture, I saw two runners fall. The first seemed to just collapse, but quickly bounced back up and kept going. The second, a young woman, lost her footing and fell down this stone embankment. Thankfully, she bounced up too, and when I saw her at the finish line many hours later, she was bawling. I’m thrilled that she finished, and she’ll have quite a story!
Jeff seemed to a little less enthusiastic around mile 27, and he mentioned that he was fighting a headache. I offered Tylenol at the next stop and he refused it. I was hopeful he would shake the headache because sometimes they can really knock him out.
I saw Jeff again on the C&O around mile 38. It was obvious at this point that the entire field of runners were feeling pretty spent. Almost everyone was walking. And, it was getting so cold. We were nearing the end of daylight and the natural warmth of the sun, and people were slowing. While I waited along the trail for Jeff, a runner actually asked me if I was alright! I was bundled to the max, but my knees were still knocking from the cold! How ironic that someone who had already run 38 miles was asking the girl who just got out of her warm car whether she was alright!
I saw Jeff again at mile 46. It was dark. And cold. And, I had gone all day without finding a place to eat or pee. I was losing my enthusiasm, and praying frequently for a good attitude. And, I was getting worried that Jeff’s pace would put him at risk for being swept off the course due to time limits before he finished.
Thankfully, my fears were unfounded! While waiting at the finish line, I heard the DJ announce 15 minutes until they cleared the course. My heart skipped a beat, and then, there he was! Eleven hours and forty-seven minutes later, and he was crossing the finish line, having completed his first 50-mile run! Wow!
I was amazed at how well he did afterwards — I was expecting the worst. Cramps, naseua, extreme fatigue. He was obviously beat, but he was in good spirits.
He commented, “My legs feel like they weigh 100 pounds each and my feet feel like ground hamburger.” Mmmmmm.
We got home around 9 p.m. on Saturday. Jeff immediately enjoyed a hot shower. I unpacked our bags, put on my jammies, and we both went to bed. We were exhausted (for very different reasons). Obviously, running that distance takes alot of you (like more than 7,000 calories and about three pounds), and navigating unknown roads and standing in the cold can be tiring in an entirely different way.
Two days post-race, and Jeff is taking the stairs a little slower and shuffling at times. But, overall, he is recovering very well, and I couldn’t be prouder. What an accomplishment!