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rutowskis1 FIRST-TIMER '18

I may be a little biased because this is my hometown but I will forever run this race until I can't anymore. Crowd support, swag, hilly (but downhills make up … MORE

I may be a little biased because this is my hometown but I will forever run this race until I can’t anymore. Crowd support, swag, hilly (but downhills make up for it), beautiful city, incredible expo, really everything you need in a race can be found at the Cincinnati Flying Pig. 10/10 recommend.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
5

5 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

RunnerMeg FIRST-TIMER '18

I heard JFK50 was a great first-timer's race, and it didn't disappoint. From central Virginia, it was a fairly easy three hour drive up to Hagerstown, MD the day before … MORE

I heard JFK50 was a great first-timer’s race, and it didn’t disappoint. From central Virginia, it was a fairly easy three hour drive up to Hagerstown, MD the day before the race. Packet pickup was at a Homewood Suites across from where my husband I stayed. It’s about a 1200 person race I believe, so it was a little crowded but fast. There was some gear for sale and a few vendors. The vibe was pretty exuberant, like a family reunion since many runners seem to do this event year after year. The shirt, in my opinion, is pretty cool. The women’s are a v-neck navy blue and I’ll be proud to sport it!

I got a lot of advice about this particular course from friends who had completed it multiple times, and I studied all the info on the website beforehand, so I felt fairly prepared, up until a couple of days before the race when western Maryland got 8 inches of snow, on top of all of the rain they received the previous weeks. That threw a small wrench into the works but some things are just out of your control. Other than the trail conditions promising to be bad, the weather itself was perfect, mid 30s to low 40s, no rain.

On race morning you start in a high school gym which is very pleasant since there are indoor bathrooms and it’s a warm building! The RD spoke to all the runners in the gym around 5:50am and gave us some great information about the trails, answered questions, and had multi-year finishers stand up in case anyone wanted to tag along with them based on their anticipated finish time. After that we all filed out of the gym and walked the 8-10 minutes or so to the start line in Boonsboro. It was timed perfectly – we stood for about 1 minute before the gun went off right at 6:30am.

The first two or three miles or so are on paved roads and have some serious hills. After that you get on the Appalachian Trail for the next 13 or so miles. There are parts of the AT that are steep up or down, some flat, all rocky, and with the snow and ridiculous amount of mud, all tricky! It was tough going for me, a road-marathoner, and hard to pass people as you end up in single file for a lot of it. Passing means risking your ankles to go through the snow and the unknown rocks dwelling underneath. I decided to listen to my friends’ advice and take it very easy on the trail. End goal: get off the trial in one piece so I can run the rest of the race. Mission accomplished – I made it down the final trail switchbacks without one fall but my time reflected my cautious strategy.

The first crew spot is at Weverton Cliffs right after the AT portion ends and my husband met me there so I could change my wet socks and muddy trail shoes for dry socks and road shoes. They felt divine for about five minutes and then I found the mud on the towpath. I had heard from many JFK runners that they all hated the C&O towpath but at the time it sounded liked it would be a nice change from the trail: flat, good surface, no single track trails. It was nice for a few minutes, then I found the mud. It was all mud. So much mud. By that point it wasn’t me caring about my feet that slowed me down, it was me trying not to fall in the slick slop that made up much of the path. But I put on a good amount of speed to make up for the slow AT portion.

There are cutoffs to be aware of along the way and I was well ahead of those, though take care to make sure your GPS is able to handle a long event. I had to go strictly by my timer and the aid station mile markers, as there are no other mile markers until the last 8 miles, and my watch mileage was messed up and useless.

Speaking of aid stations, the locations varied but roughly they were every 4 or so miles. There were lots of goodies: gatorade, water, bottle/backpack refills, cookies, cake at one aid station, pretzels, candy, PB&J sandwiches, Coke, broth…the best part of ultras is the food! Volunteers were fantastic the entire way.

At long last I left the towpath and made it to the paved road. These 8 miles are rolling hills through farm country but it was my fastest speed of the day even at the end. Here there are mile markers counting down from 8 – invigorating!

The finish line is at another school and was the happiest finish line of my 62 races. I got the coveted JFK medal around my neck and then retreated into the warm school cafeteria with my husband to relish my finish and have a hot cup of coffee before getting back to my hotel to warm up and wash the extensive amount of mud off of my feet, shins, and calves. There were several food and drink options in the cafeteria but I didn’t partake except for the hot coffee.

Overall, it was a great event. A note to potential runners that you cannot use personal listening devices so it’s a lot of time in your head out there on the trail and path. I talked to several people throughout the day which was a lot of fun, but also spent a lot of time by myself. I carried a lightweight hydration pack with my electrolytes and a little bit of nutrition and s!caps, since aid stations were a little far (compared to a marathon) but had no problem with that aspect at all. The weather was great as I said before. The toughest part this year was simply the trail and towpath condition, but I’d take the mud and snow over actively falling rain or abnormally high temperatures! I’d definitely recommend the race for its history, its fantastic RD and organization, support and volunteers, and camaraderie. I have nothing but fond memories of my first 50 miler..mud and all!

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
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3
SWAG
3
My Media

3 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '18

BOTTOM LINE: First held in 1963 during the Kennedy administration, the JFK 50 Mile is the country’s oldest and largest ultra marathon. It’s an iconic race that draws some of … MORE

BOTTOM LINE: First held in 1963 during the Kennedy administration, the JFK 50 Mile is the country’s oldest and largest ultra marathon. It’s an iconic race that draws some of the country’s most elite runners, as well as folks like me. The event remains a military race at heart with its most prestigious award, the Kennedy Cup, being awarded to its top military team. Buoyed by 56 years of history, this is a must-run race for serious ultrarunners, one that inspires fierce loyalty among its finishers — case in point Kimball Byron, who sadly fell short this year in his attempt to become the event’s first 50-time finisher. With limited elevation change after the first 16 miles, this is also a great option for anyone looking to tackle their first 50-miler.

The JFK 50 course is part road (paved), part trail (unpaved). About 80% of the course runs on the unpaved Appalachian Trail and C&O Canal Towpath, with the paved 20% coming at the beginning and end. The course is divided into three main sections, starting with the Appalachian Trail (~11 of the first 16 miles) and moving on to the unpaved/crushed gravel C&O Canal Towpath (26 miles) before finishing on paved, rolling country roads (8 miles). The good news is you’ll get through the toughest section of the course (i.e. the Appalachian Trail) at the beginning; the bad news is that the hills and highly technical terrain will sap a lot of the energy and bounce from your legs. This was especially true in 2018, when record annual rainfall and eight inches of snow less than 36 hours earlier created trail conditions that were, according to one 31-time finisher, “the worst ever.” So my recommendation would be to prepare for the worst and then be pleasantly surprised if/when you luck into dry (or at least not marshy) trail conditions.

Despite having four 50+ milers under my belt, this was the first race where I can recall feeling bored for long stretches, particularly on the flat 26-mile C&O Canal Towpath along the Potomac River where the scenery never changed. As one RaceRaves reviewer put it, it was like the running version of Groundhog’s Day. With no hills, no change of scenery and no headphones allowed on the course, I spent much of the middle 26 miles in my own head trying to focus on something other than my heavy quads and mounting fatigue, while slowly ticking off the miles one… at… a… time. If not for having to negotiate frequent mud puddles, I could have run this entire stretch on autopilot.

So although I’d be curious to take another crack at this course under drier conditions, given that we live 2,500 miles away and I still have 26 states remaining, I won’t be returning for a rematch anytime soon. Someday, maybe…

PRODUCTION: Race day was a smooth production for the most part. Aid stations were well stocked (which for me means peanut butter & jelly along with bananas), though I could feel my insulin levels spike just surveying the amount of cookies and sugary foods available. And the outstanding volunteers were ready to assist with pretty much anything you’d want or need, from food to Vaseline to good old-fashioned encouragement. As is the case with most events and especially the best ones, the JFK 50 doesn’t happen without the tireless support of its volunteers who sacrifice their day so the rest of us can chase our goals and play in the mud.

Conveniently held at the host hotel (the Homewood Suites by Hilton Hagerstown), the race expo was your typical low-key ultramarathon packet pickup with tables from Altra Running (the presenting sponsor), a local running store and the JFK 50 folks themselves selling race merch past and present. The organizers even created a cool booklet featuring statistics from past JFK 50 finishers and course record holders plus a detailed rundown of historical sites along the course, very few of which you’ll be able to appreciate on race day.

The post-race spread in the Springfield Middle School cafeteria was low-key but fairly generous including pizza, chili (Sloppy Joe or chili cheese dog, anyone?) and assorted aid station snacks such as pretzels, M&Ms and red velvet cake. Massages were also available for those who were willing to freshen up first. Most importantly for me, the indoor cafeteria offered a warm place to sit and recover while reveling in the accomplishment of another 50-mile run.

I’d recommend to the organizers that the pre-race briefing begin (or end) five minutes earlier, to allow for last-minute porta-potty stops before the race start. By the time I exited the crowded gym after the briefing, took care of business and then walked briskly to the start line, the starter’s pistol had already fired and I was among the last runners to start. Not a terrible thing except the JFK 50 has no chip timing at the start, so the clock started while I was still ¼ mile behind the line in my wind pants and jacket. Oops.

SWAG: From what I can tell, the JFK 50 finisher medal never changes aside from the year because similar to Comrades, why fix what ain’t broke? The iconic award is a silver- (or gold)-colored medal depicting JFK in profile, reminiscent of (but larger than) the half dollar coin that bears his likeness. The medal hangs from a patriotic red, white and blue ribbon. Like many trail races, the shirt is a simple cotton short-sleeve tee featuring the race’s patriotic logo on front with sponsors listed on back. And though I have no shortage of race tees, I’ll happily wear this one if for no other reason than its promise as a conversation starter.

For more details including the history of the JFK 50, check out my blog recap at https://blisterscrampsheaves.com/2019/03/18/jfk-50-mile-race-report/

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
My Report
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3
SWAG
4
My Media

3 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

Raena.king FIRST-TIMER '18

This was a small race that seemed to attract runners from all over. Despite having fewer than 150 finishers they did provide pacers. The course has a steady downhill grade. … MORE

This was a small race that seemed to attract runners from all over. Despite having fewer than 150 finishers they did provide pacers. The course has a steady downhill grade. Because of desert hypnosis you will sometimes feel like you are running uphill when you really aren’t. The course isn’t exciting but it is a good place to set a PR with its gentle downhill slope. The course is mainly on a highway but there were no issues with cars. It just got a bit boring looking at the desert for hours. It is Arizona in December which gets warm and dry once the sun comes up. Drink way more water and Gatorade than you think you need. I could have done much better had I known that. It is also a Boston qualifier for those capable of that. There wasn’t much crowd support to the point that I saw the same spectators 3 times and recognized them. You ride a bus back to the start line after completing the race. And you are riding for almost the full distance as the course is nearly a straight shot down the highway. The town of Buckeye generally has no idea that there is even a marathon in their town. At a restaurant bar the night before I mentioned to locals that I was running the Buckeye marathon the next day. None of them knew about it, but they also asked me if it was a 5 mile marathon. I met a lot of great people at the race and the race shirt is my new favorite running shirt.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4

3 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

ihafij REPEAT RUNNER '18

Course changed slighty from the previous year. Still an amazing race! Scenic course with amazing spectator support! Always have an amazing swag bag! The hills are not bad as long … MORE

Course changed slighty from the previous year. Still an amazing race! Scenic course with amazing spectator support! Always have an amazing swag bag! The hills are not bad as long as you include hills in your training.

DIFFICULTY
5
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

DanjaR FIRST-TIMER '17

This is an easy, beautiful flat course. Great for a first time marathon or to BQ. We stayed in a condo right near the start, finish line. I highly recommend … MORE

This is an easy, beautiful flat course. Great for a first time marathon or to BQ. We stayed in a condo right near the start, finish line. I highly recommend doing that as driving is almost impossible during the marathon because roads are closed.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

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kimmyanne_777 FIRST-TIMER '16

Fun race. Extremely well organized. So much fun! Nice trails. I've run 3 different trail races put on by 131 Event Productions, and they have all been fantastic. They have … MORE

Fun race. Extremely well organized. So much fun! Nice trails. I’ve run 3 different trail races put on by 131 Event Productions, and they have all been fantastic. They have awesome tech shirts, great medals, free race pics, and snow cones at the finish line! They are well-organized with courses well marked and great aid stations staffed with wonderful volunteers. Races are reasonably priced and capped to keep the trails from getting too congested. I look forward to participating in more of their events in the future.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
3

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

demman1024 REPEAT RUNNER '18

I was concerned as I had read some negative reviews but it was a fun race. I loved running through the fire station with high 5's from the firemen! The … MORE

I was concerned as I had read some negative reviews but it was a fun race. I loved running through the fire station with high 5’s from the firemen! The medal is pretty cool with a keychain that comes off.
Aide stations were all well stocked with Cliff gels 2x. Running through the Bronco’s stadium twice was cool too! Plenty of porta potties at the start and along the way.
We stayed at the Mariott and they shuttled us over to the start. All the logistics went very smoothly–this is my 27th marathon so I know the importance of logistics on race morning!
Lines were too long at the finish but apparently there was good food. I’m running the 50 states and was glad I chose Colfax for my Colorado Marathon!

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

MomRuns FIRST-TIMER '17

This is a well-oiled machine of a race. You will have fun. This is not the race for a PR because you don't want to miss all the fun water/food/party … MORE

This is a well-oiled machine of a race. You will have fun. This is not the race for a PR because you don’t want to miss all the fun water/food/party stops along the way!! Never saw so much bacon in my life!!!

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
5

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

Great marathon. Tougher than most but you are never alone. Cheering crowds the whole route. The Race Director, and her team, think of everything to make the entire surrounding communities … MORE

Great marathon. Tougher than most but you are never alone. Cheering crowds the whole route. The Race Director, and her team, think of everything to make the entire surrounding communities support the race.

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This was my first time running the Kiawah Island Half. It was a girls' weekend with two friends who ran the marathon. This is a great destination/racecation race. It's a … MORE

This was my first time running the Kiawah Island Half. It was a girls’ weekend with two friends who ran the marathon. This is a great destination/racecation race. It’s a nice size, well organized, and has great swag. I loved the shirt this year and the medal. They have a great Christmas craft market during the expo where you can browse local artisans. Post race food, while not right at the finish line is excellent. The course is scenic…the homes you run past are incredible. While it is quiet, I did find there were plenty of spectators riding bikes to meet people they were supporting at various locations. Another great spot is The Sanctuary, where you see the ocean and there’s a big party going on. It’s a fun spot to run through. While we stayed on the island allowing us to walk to and from the start/finish, they’re shuttle option for those off-island runs smoothly, as well. I can’t wait to do this race again!

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
5

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

gdeivert FIRST-TIMER '18

This was my first full Marathon so I have nothing to compare it to. I have done 15 halfs this year and those were my refernce point for this race. … MORE

This was my first full Marathon so I have nothing to compare it to. I have done 15 halfs this year and those were my refernce point for this race.
The packet pickup was over three days, the last two of which were held at Bally’s on the Boardwalk. Packet pickup was easy and well organized. The expo was small but had some quality vendors and i bought a few things as well as sampled some products.
On Saturday 10/21/2018 I ran the 5K. There were options when registering to run a 5K or a 10K to earn an extra medal for the King Neptune Challenge. The 5K course was easy and flat and all of it was on the Boardwalk. I took it easy because i was running the full the next day and finished in 28:30.
Race day the weather had deteriorated and there were winds of 20-30mph. The start was crowded but smooth and we ran out to the AC Expressway and through a tunnel for the first 5 miles or so. There were a few inclines but nothing major. Tracking was done at the 5K , 10K and 19 Mile. My friends told me later they had a hard time with the app which was not updating very quickly.
At mile 8 we returned to the Boardwalk and ran past the start line and south on the penninsula. There was great traffic control at all intersections, and the course was ,marked very well.
After leaving the Boarwalk we ran on some major avenues and eventually side streets before completing Mile 22 and heading back to the Boarwalk for the finish.
All the water stops had water and gatorade. there was plenty of help and several stops handed out GU. The finish was in front of Bally’s so there was some congestion with tourists on the Boardwalk, but I thought it was manageable.
I had a good experience and will probably do this race again. The medals were well made and the finish line had plenty of food and water as well as a medic tent with massages available.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
3
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My Media

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kmusheno FIRST-TIMER '18

Pros: - Beautiful scenery. Plenty of views of the golf courses and marshes with wildlife. I saw some egrets swooping through the marshes. - Cheap if you sign up for … MORE

Pros:
– Beautiful scenery. Plenty of views of the golf courses and marshes with wildlife. I saw some egrets swooping through the marshes.
– Cheap if you sign up for the next year’s race when they have their discounted rate immediately following the race. I only paid $41.
– Great food and unlimited beer (Palmetto Amber Ale, Angry Orchard, Michelob Ultra) afterwards
– Pancake flat course. Absolutely no hills or bridges.

Cons:
– Winding course that features a lot of abrupt turns and running on uneven sidewalks/golf cart paths.
– Traffic is not controlled and the locals were not generally respectful of what you were doing so there are lots of obstructions. Cars and golf carts will act like they have the right of way.
– Walkers will block diagonals when the full course meets up with the half course.
– Food and nutrition stations needed to be improved. RD’s pre-race description of the stations was wrong (e.g., there was no jellybean stop). Volunteers were handing out barely filled cups and most water stations only had a handful of volunteers (i.e., not enough time to grab a second cup). I assume that this is because there were not a lot of people on the island that weren’t participating in the event as competitors or as spectators.
– Swag was awful. The shirt was openly mocked by participants and the medal was not much better.
– Accommodations are difficult to come by. There’s not much to do on the island outside of the golf course and Charleston is ~30-45 minutes drive away. Don’t get me wrong, the island is beautiful but when the weather went south, we just stayed in our AirBnb.
– Course is very crowded at the start prior to the full/half split 5 miles in.
– Not a lot of crowd support along the way. Felt more like a training run through a residential neighborhood than a race at times.

DIFFICULTY
3
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2
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5
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2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

cinnamon2_99 REPEAT RUNNER '18

Cincy is known for the Flying Pig and EVERYONE comes out to participate, volunteer or cheer! It's such a fun weekend to be a part of - even my kids … MORE

Cincy is known for the Flying Pig and EVERYONE comes out to participate, volunteer or cheer! It’s such a fun weekend to be a part of – even my kids got to race!

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
3

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

bioprofsd FIRST-TIMER '15

Mostly single track through forested park around Eagle Creek Reservoir. About 90% of the course is extremely runnable, but there are a few sections with steep, but short hills with … MORE

Mostly single track through forested park around Eagle Creek Reservoir. About 90% of the course is extremely runnable, but there are a few sections with steep, but short hills with lots of roots. It allows you to open up your stride on the flat sections, yet has just enough technical sections to make it interesting. One thing that could be improved is to make the medals specific to the distance and the year; the half marathon runners received the same bling as the marathon runners. I thought it was a very fun course though and would do it again if I was in the area.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
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3
My Media

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

mflores711 FIRST-TIMER '18

A nice, flat course that made it pretty comfortable to run, and a good choice if you're going for a PB. The sweatshirt we got for the race was excellent … MORE

A nice, flat course that made it pretty comfortable to run, and a good choice if you’re going for a PB. The sweatshirt we got for the race was excellent quality, and the post-race finish festival was awesome with lots of goodies. My only real gripe was that the aid stations could have been a bit better organized, as there were times that I had to forgo a station because the attendants were unprepared.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
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5

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

RunningPastor FIRST-TIMER '14

This is a very scenic course with tremendous hills and WONDERFUL aloha spirit. I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who took to their front yards to cheer on … MORE

This is a very scenic course with tremendous hills and WONDERFUL aloha spirit. I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who took to their front yards to cheer on strangers and offer them encouragement, food, and a spritz from their garden hose! Finishing with a quarter-mile dash along the coast is a great way to end a race. I will run this race again and again if my body will let me!

DIFFICULTY
5
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?