Runners traverse 'highs and lows' of fastest ever JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon
Lead man Max King on the Appalachian Trail near Reno Monument Road in Boonsboro during the 2012 JFK 50 Mile Run. (By Yvette May/Staff Photographer / November 17, 2012)
Pretty remarkable considering that just three months ago, he was fighting for his life.
The 47-year-old from Huntsville, Ala., came down with a severe headache Aug. 29 and it landed him in the hospital for 10 days.
While there, doctors told Taylor that he had suffered a stroke and had a 40 percent chance of death or paralysis, and a 70 percent chance of death if he experienced any further brain hemorrhaging.
“They didn’t know if I was going to live or die,” Taylor said.
In the two months that followed, Taylor was restricted to walking and he wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to make it to Washington County for the race. Doctors cautioned him to take it easy when he started running again about a month ago.
With only a pair of 11-mile runs and a half-marathon under his belt prior to Saturday, Taylor didn’t know how his body would hold up when he began the grueling 50.2-mile course.
As remarkably as his speedy recovery, Taylor said he felt better and better as the race went, actually picking up his pace as he entered the second half of the race.
“There was never a question that I was not going all the way. I’m curious to know if anybody has ever done anything like that,” Taylor said afterward. “I’m hooked on it. Evidently, I just can’t stay away from it.”
Taylor was one of 1,000 runners from all over the country and beyond who started the JFK 50, which led participants along portions of more than 10 miles of paved roads over rolling hills, rugged and steep terrain through a 13-mile segment on the Appalachian Trail and a 26-mile stretch on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal tow path.
Race director Mike Spinnler said the field of runners included representatives from every branch of military service and numerous world-class runners from around the globe. New individual course records were set in both the men’s and women’s races, making this year the fastest JFK 50 ever, he said.
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” Spinnler said.
Starting on Main Street in Boonsboro and finishing at Springfield Middle School in Williamsport, the event has gained national and international notoriety through the past five decades. Spinnler said race officials had to reject between 8,000 and 10,000 applications to enter the race because of permit and course constraints.
Several runners touted the event as “the best 50 there is.”
With temperatures in the 50s most of the day and sunny skies above, Anna Piskorska, of Blandon, Pa., said the weather was better than any of the other four times she has run it.
“We had the best conditions, considering it was a little chilly in the morning,” she said. “The sun came out. It was just very, very comfortable. The (running) surface was not too slippery.”
Piskorska, who has competed in 24-hour races before, said she prepares for the race by running on hilly trails, much like those that runners encounter along the AT segment that ends in Weverton.
“You have to concentrate so much,” she said. “... But I was lucky to come out in one piece.”
Local runner Becky Orndorff, 42, of Hagerstown, looked both exhausted and joyous as she posed for photos with friends and family after finishing her fifth JFK 50. She said she enjoyed running along the AT, but the tow path was difficult.