JFK Preview on This Week In Running (Week of 11/21 & 11/22)

This Week In Running previews the 2009 JFK 50 Mile race.

By on November 18, 2009 | Comments

In our last installment of TWIR before Thanksgiving (yes, we will be so busy preparing the turkey next Wednesday that we won’t be able to grace you with a Thanksgiving edition of TWIR), we could fill you in about the Cardiac Endurance Trail Run (50 mile, 50k and 25k) in Warda, Texas. Or, we could detail the Santa Monica Mountains Trail Run (50k, 30k, 18k and 9k) taking place in La Jolla Canyon, Malibu, California. Better yet, we could highlight the NYRR Knickerbocker 60k in Central Park, New York. No, we won’t tough any of those. Instead, this week’s edition of TWIR will take a look at one race, and one race alone. The largest ultra event in North America. The 47th Annual John F. Kennedy 50 Mile.

Alright, Tony, go enjoy some turkey and a trail run. It’s Bryon Powell, aka Trail Goat, here to fill you in on this year’s JFK 50 mile. To start off, this year’s JFK 50 mile is once again a Montrail Ultra Cup race. As such and given the fact that it’s a 50 mile race, both the top two men and top two women will earn spots in next year’s Western States 100. All competitors that finish will receive points toward the overall MUC rankings. (Read iRF’s discussion of the MUC.) Below, I’ll direct you to some JFK 50 resources, throw out some names of folks who are running it, and share some advice on JFK that I sent out yesterday.

Best of luck to everyone running the JFK 50 Mile! Leave a comment if you are running the race or would like to send a racer well wishes.

JFK Resources
JFK 50 mile run

The Contenders
Rather than putting together a resume for each “contender,” I’m simply going to let you know who some of the big dogs are on this 1,000+ entrant list! I’ve surely missed some top runners among the hordes, so throw out any that I missed in a comment. Also, feel free to handicap the top runners… it’s going to be quite a race. The only non-race is the open team competition, which goes to Ian Torrence et al, but more on that later.


  • Meghan Arbogast
  • Annette Bednosky
  • Francesca Conte
  • Devon Crosby-Helms
  • Justine Morrison
  • Monica Ochs
  • Jill Perry
  • Jennifer Vanallen


  • Todd Braje
  • Pete Brenckinridge
  • Josh Brimhall
  • Eric Clifton
  • Gregory Crowther
  • Chris Farley
  • David James
  • Scott Jurek
  • Hal Koerner
  • Oz Pearlman
  • Ian Torrence

I’ll indulge with a bit on Ian. He’s has been a member of all but one JFK team champion. This year he’s joined on the Rogue Valley Runners team by the likes of Brimhall, Clifton, Jurek, and Koerner.

Advice on Running the JFK 50
I wasn’t planning on sharing any thoughts about running JFK in this post, but this afternoon I ended up writing the following advice to a woman running her first JFK on Saturday. The advice is tailored for an experienced marathoner who may or may not have run an ultra before. It, however, is not tailored for folks trying to break 8 hours at JFK.

* * * * *

As for Saturday, you won’t have to worry about not having run technical trails of late. Supposedly the first 15ish miles are trail. That’s only partially true. There are a couple road miles out of the gate and then another section of paved bike path on the “trail.” To be sure, there are miles of rocky trail on the AT – especially the final descent! Take it easy – there will be plenty of roadies to keep you company. You will make the early cutoffs even if you walk chunks of the technical trail. Just keep the rubber side down.

If you’re waffling over trail versus road shoe, I think that even more trail runners wear road shoes. If you can be careful early, you’ll be thankful for the road shoe feel later! That said, some hybrid trail shoes like the Brooks Cascadia or Asics GT-2140 Trail would be fine choices, as well.

Once you get down to the tow path, the easiest of run-walks would keep you ahead of cutoffs. At most 50 milers, I’d advise people to walk the places where the terrain suggests that you do so. That could be ruinous at JFK, as you’ve got a pancake flat marathon following a 15 mile trail run. If you’re in it to finish, take walk breaks on a schedule. If you’ve got some solid marathon or ultra credentials, you shouldn’t have to set up a 5-1 or 10-1 walk ratio. Instead, grab what you need in the aid stations (i.e., get your hydration supply topped off, drink some fluids, and grab some snacks, if so inclined) and then walk out of the aid station. You can keep eating and drink, but (1) you keep moving and (2) get a nice walk break.

As the tow path drags on, consider scheduling a one or two minute long walking break between aid stations that are spaced farther apart. If you’ve prescheduled the breaks, you won’t feel defeated and 2 minutes of walking after half an hour of running won’t slow your time down by much.

A quick word on aid stations, as I suggested above, walk out of them if you are concerned with time. Go in with a purpose and don’t get overwhelmed by the choices or coaxed into letting someone cook something for you. Grab and go! :-) Lots of time can be wasted this way.

Given than the weather is cooling off, don’t overload yourself by
carrying 60 ounces of water. You’ll be fine with the equivalent of one handheld bottle that you can refill at stations. Sometimes I even run right through an aid station without topping off if I figure I have enough fluids to get me to the next one. One way to help nurse the water you carry is when you do stop at an aid station to get a bottle filled and someone else is filling it (they often do), take the time to drink two cups of fluid.

Anthony Portera
Anthony Portera is a contributing author to iRunFar.com.