On Saturday, some of the best ultrarunners in the U.S. lined up to race the JFK 50-miler in Boonsboro, Md. Hayden Hawks and Camille Herron took the wins at the 58th edition of the event, with Hawks posting a mind-blowing course record of 5:18:43 to beat the next closest finisher by almost 10 minutes. Herron won the women’s race in 6:31:14, finishing almost half an hour ahead of second place.
— USA Ultrarunning (@USAultrarunning) November 21, 2020
Flying through the course
Hawks hammered the race on Saturday. Over the course of the 80K run, he averaged an incredible pace of 3:58 per kilometre, and he crossed the line close to three minutes ahead of Jim Walmsley‘s JFK 50 record of 5:21:28 from 2016. When Walmsley ran his record, it was an enormous accomplishment, and it seemed likely that nobody would match his result for a long time. “I fully expected Walmsley’s record to stand well into 2040, maybe even 2050,” JFK 50 race director Mike Spinnler told Maryland’s Herald Mail Media. “It was just such a big quantum leap.”
As Hawks told the Herald, he and Walmsley are good friends. “Jim actually gave me some advice coming into this,” he said. “I was texting him back and forth, asking for shoe advice and what I should do. … He’s a really class-act guy, a really great competitor and I’m really fortunate to have him as a friend.”
In second, well behind Hawks, was Stephen Kersh, who finished in 5:27:07. Other than Hawks and Walmsley, Kersh is the only runner to have run sub-5:30 on the JFK course. Third place went to Jonathan Aziz in 5:37:14.
A stellar debut
Going into the women’s race, Herron was the clear favourite to win. She is a multi-time world record-holder (including the 50-mile best of 5:38:41), a world champion ultrarunner and the winner of many other prestigious races. Ahead of the race, she had her eyes on the women’s course record of 6:11:59 that Ellie Greenwood set in 2012, but her 6:31:14 finish ultimately fell short of the mark. Although she missed out on her primary goal, she still took the win in dominant fashion, smashing the rest of the women’s field.
“I’ve had this on my list of goals since I started following the sport in 2012,” Herron wrote in an Instagram post after her win. “I’m a bit emotional to finally run it and win it.” She added that she already wants to return to Maryland to become a two-time winner of the event, and to “give it another shot to chase Ellie’s stout course record.”
About 26 minutes behind Herron was Sarah Cummings, who crossed the line in second place in 6:57:11. Haley Moody Gilpin wasn’t far behind Cummings, taking the final spot on the podium in 7:00:52.