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Tough day at JFK 50-miler, but Canadians strong nonetheless

The JFK 50-miler, which incorporates a section on the Appalachian Trail, proved to be a tough slog for many yesterday, with travel fiascos and setbacks on the course

The 56th annual JFK 50 Miler took place in Boonsboro, Maryland yesterday, with some upsets and some strong results by Canadians. Conditions on the course were “extremely snowy and muddy,” according to Seth Marcaccio, 23, of London, Ont., who finished fifth overall, despite having some serious issues towards the end, with a time of 6:09:52. Vicki Zandbergen, 39, of Kitchener, Ont. was 17th female, with a time of 8:44:49.

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“Yeah, it was a bit of a rough day,” said Marcaccio. “I was on pace to run under 5:50 through 34 miles [54K] and blew out both of my Achilles.”

The oldest ultramarathon in the U.S., the JFK 50, as it’s known, was one of several 50-mile races held around the country, according to the race website, as part of President John F. Kennedy’s effort to promote physical fitness. It was first held in March 1963 (Kennedy was assassinated in November), and after JFK’s death, most such events were never held again. 

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Kate Pallardy, 33, of New York, N.Y. was the first woman across the line, in 6:40:36. Kaci Lickteig, 32, of Omaha, Nebraska was second, in 6:53:47, and Riley Brady, 23, of New Hope, Penn. was third, in 7:09:45. In the men’s race, Jared Hazen, 23, of Flagstaff, Ariz. won handily, with a time of 5:34:21, seven minutes ahead of Zach Miller, 30,of Manitou Springs, Colo., who finished second, in 5:41:01, and the second-fastest time in the race’s history. Allan Spangler, 31, of Anchorage, Alaska was third, in 6:00:48. 

Miller headed to JFK at the last minute after the cancellation of The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships in northern California, which had been scheduled to race, due to smoke from the wildfires that have devastated the area.

The course is a horseshoe-shaped point-to-point combining road and trail running. It joins a very rocky portion of the Appalachian Trail after 4K on the road, with 357m of climb in the first 9K. Around 23K in, the course then drops 300m via a series of switchbacks before joining the completely flat C&O Canal Towpath for the next 42K. The final 13.4K are on gently rolling paved roads.

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“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” JFK Today was hard. I had one of the best training blocks I’ve had in a while. I felt strong, sharp, & confident. I was pleased with the way I handled the snow & slush on the Appalachian Trail. I found a groove & started rolling on the tow path. Things were beginning to go as planned. . . . . And then the wheels came off. I couldn’t keep any food down. I couldn’t get warm. I went from being in the hunt to trying to maintain a walk more than double the pace I had been running. I was convulsing & sweating & shivering. I felt awful, yet so grateful to be able to be doing what I was doing. The fact that I am able to fly across the continent to run for fun is pretty remarkable. The fact that I have a supportive wife @amypuzey who was willing to stay back with a nursing baby & a potty training toddler along with the teenagers is even more remarkable. The fact that my friend @ericreyesruns was willing to use vacation time to accompany & support me meant a lot! The fact that @booneriley & @rayrunslong were willing to step up & try to get me what I needed before the race was also a HUGE help. The fact that I was able to reconnect with my first ultrarunning mentor @mexifast who took a risk & asked me to join the ultra team he directed with some of the sponsors with whom I am still working made it worth it! Seeing my friend @itgoesinflag finish his 23rd @jfk50 increased my admiration & appreciation that he also took a risk on me by offering me a job as an online running coach years ago. It was really good to reconnect with him & @emilyharrison0708 So despite falling short of my goals, I am proud & I am gateful. I don’t remember the last time something challenged me this much. I am grateful to the race, volunteers, family, friends & sponsors who made it all possible. Thank you! @altrarunning #spaltra #altrarunning #rungrateful

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Jacob Puzey, who is American but lives in Canmore, Alta. and very much a part of the Canadian trail running scene, was disappointed with his 46th place finish and 7:35:38 time, after battling delayed travel, fuelling issues and fatigue on the course. Puzey is sponsored by Altra.