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JFK 50 Mile

21-Nov-2020 Boonsboro Educational Complex, Maryland, USA


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Trail Race Race Terrain
80KM / 50Miles
1 Day - 1000 Runners

DIFFICULTY Race Difficulty Intermediate  

Starting at Boonsboro and ending at Williamsport, the race is run over a variety of surfaces including roads, trails and dirt tracks. There are partial cut-offs at 8 checkpoints.

There are 14 fully stocked checkpoints with drinks, snacks and first aid supplies. Those reached in the latter stages of the event will offer hot drinks.

Bag transport to the finish line is provided. Personal listening devices are banned due to the dangerous footing of some sections of the Appalachian Trail. Crewing is permitted in the designated areas but pacing is not allowed.

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Elevation: Very little change < 500 metres. Benign running terrain, not technical.

Suitable for: First ultra runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running in the last six months.


Elevation: Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed at least one ultra distance race (or similar event) or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.


Elevation: Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.


Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat) and or technical terrain

Suitable for: Experienced runners who have completed at least regular ultra distances in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.


Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude) and or technical terrain.

Suitable for: Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Type: An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for: Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Global - Virtual

Type: A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for: For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Review JFK 50 Mile

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03:48 08-12-15

I ran the JFK 50 this year in 2015. It was my fourth ultra and little did I know but I was in for a journey. First, I have to mention that if you're looking for an ultra that is scenic, well organized, has plentiful aid stations, and consists of many supportive screaming fans at the transition points then this race is a must! In the morning you can rest your legs and get out of the cold for a bit with the plethora of your fellow runners in the gymnasium. There is plenty of parking in front of the gym and I have much respect for the race director as he gave shoutouts to past JFK 50 runners as well as Veterans of the armed forces. About 15 minutes before race start you will leave the gym and walk into downtown to the race start. I saw many runners layering up but despite the cold, you will warm up in the first couple of miles and you don't want to be too warm and uncomfortable. On a map the race terrain doesn't look overly difficult, however the course can be deceiving. The beginning of the race turns almost straight uphill for a couple of miles just to prepare you for what's to come. Once you reach the top of the hill and enter the Appalachian Trail the real adventure begins.

The roughly 16 miles worth of Appalachian Trail was my favorite section of the race. It was very scenic and you never knew what was around the next turn. However, there are obstacles along the way. It's quite technical with large rocks all along the path. It's extremely important to buy a good pair of trail running shoes for this event as street shoes or subpar trail shoes with poor gripping will cause you to fall numerous times and possibly even injure yourself on the numerous rocks. I wore Salomons that had good gripping on the bottom but that could also be run on a flat surface without discomfort. There are also many steep hills in this section as well as a steep descent near the end of the section. I would advise walking the uphills and conserving your energy as it's a long day. Take your time on the steep descent as one wrong step and you could send yourself over the ledge and into a world of pain.

The second section begins roughly around mile 17 and takes you on a grueling 26.3 mile test of endurance for both the body and mind alike on the C&O Canal Tow Path. While the flat terrain sounds like a blessing after traversing the technical trails, it becomes a daunting task fairly quickly. While scenic, the scenery never changes and you are basically running flat and straight for 26.3 miles. After 4 miles on the Towpath, I remember saying to myself, "Can I please get off the towpath already!" The towpath can be strategized to completion. There are aid station roughly every 4-5 miles that are well stocked with PB&Js, water, electrolytes, pretzels, candy, etc. At each aid station I gave myself 1-2 minutes to replenish my fluids, get food in my system (even if I wasn't hungry), sit in a chair for about 30 seconds, and then tell myself that I could repeat in about 4 miles. I used NUNN as my main source of electrolytes and I made sure to alternate with plenty of water from my Salomon camelback. The main positive of the towpath is that you will see plenty of runners as well as many screaming friends and family at many crew stations along the way. They also have many themed aid stations such as the miracle at the 34th mile (Christmas) and a Star Wars themed station. While it seems like an eternity, eventually you will reach the end of the towpath and the end is in sight.

The final 8 miles of rolling country roads are truly a God send! Many folks drove by in cars and cheered each runner on as they passed. During this final section I ran to each rolling hill, walked the hill, and ran along the road to the next one. This part of the journey becomes very emotional as you realize that you and the other runners nearby are almost at journey's end! Once you arrive in the town, you will be met by an overwhelming amount of support last words of encouragement for your final couple miles. If you have reached the final 8 miles after 3 PM you are given a reflective vest to wear since it will likely be dark when you finish. The final mile is downhill and flat for much of it. After you run through the finish chute to glory and receive your well deserved (very nice) JFK Medal I advise that you go in the gym afterwards to claim your free pizza, hot cocoa, chili, and etc. There are also free massages but they ask out of respect that you shower in the gymnasium beforehand (completely understandable).

Lastly, this ultra gets a 10/10 (5 stars on this forum) and I would recommend that any person even considering running this race sign up immediately! I promise that you won't regret it and you will have one amazing story at race completion. God speed and happy running.

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02:58 08-12-15

This also was my third ultra and first 50 miler. It was a tough day for me due to a foot injury but what an amazing event! I paced my husband for 23 miles on the canal in 2014 and had such a great time I had to come back and do the entire thing this year. Best course support - aid stations every 2-6 miles which make it possible to run without too much gear/nutrition - the volunteers are awesome, and one of the larger ultras in terms of participants. The course itself is broken up into sections - short road beginning followed by the AT (somewhat technical though not terrible), then a VERY long canal section (flat, can get a bit mind numbing), and then 8M to the finish on road. Perfect first 50 miler. Highly recommend - 5 stars for sure! Extremely well organized. Check out my detailed race report for more info! http://wp.me/p1ghw6-1qI

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05:28 07-12-15

This was my 3rd ultra and first 50 miler and could not have asked for a better experience. The first 17 miles were quite technical through the Appalachian Trail in which I did take a fall. But two gentlemen picked me up so fast I just keep going. This was the grand hospitality throughout. At Mile 17 you hit a course which is basically dirt path which is called the C & O Path which takes you a grand 26 miles. They say it is flat but for me I just felt a slight uphill. Could of been my brain from the first part...lol. But you would continuously met new people whom supported you and the volunteers and towns there no words I can express how wonderful they all are.

The last few miles are rolling hills through a gorgeous community and the cheers from passing cars make you feel wonderful. Forgot to mention all the continuous aid stations through out. There was a constant flow of nutrition, water, Gatorade, GU, etc available.

Overall for my 1st 50 miler I will do it again next year. You feel like a community and with ultra running this is so important. If this is a first for anyone or a 2nd or 3rd I give it and all around thumbs up.

Happy Trails..

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02:49 07-12-15

I ran the JFK 50 this year (2015) and it was my first 50 miler. It is deceivingly difficult. The first few miles are on a road, then about 11 miles on the Appalachian Trail. This part is extremely rocky, but not very steep. You just have to watch your footing. After that is a marathon on the C&O towpath. This may sound easy, but running flat and straight for a full marathon is a killer on the legs and mind. Finally, the lat 8 miles are rolling hills on the roads. The volunteers are fantastic and there are several aid stations along the way. With so much history in the race, organizers and participants take a lot of pride in the event. The most negative part is absolutely zero music. No headphones or speakers. Sometimes, it's nice to be distracted by something in those later miles. All in all it's a great race and I'm looking forward to going back next year!

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05:09 07-12-15

One of the best 50 milers you can run. Really four races in one; 5k from the start to the AT trail access, then a half trail marathon on one the most historic trails in US, then a nice flat marathon on the C&O Tow Path, and a nice 8 mile road race through rolling hills and farm country to the finish...if you have an Ultra Bucket List this has to be in he top three! My third time and as challenging as it is I'll keep coming back for more.

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02:40 07-12-15

For my first 50 miler, I couldn't have asked for a better event. First, the event offered a diverse course. You begin on a technical trail on the Appalachian Trail. Once you complete the first 17 miles, you begin a 26 mile stretch on the C&O Canal, which is a flat dirt/gravel path along the Potomac River. For the remaining miles, you are on a road filled with rolling hills. The changes help keep the race interesting and your mind busy!

Second, the course offered many aid stations at 3-5 mile intervals (after getting off the Appalachian Trail). This was perfect because in an ultra it's easy to go from a high point to a low point very quickly. You may fall, need extra nutrition, and a private bathroom break!!!

Third, constant support from others. Not only are your fellow competitors there helping you get through the race (I found that everyone in the race was SUPER friendly and willing to talk to you), but once off the Appalachian, there are people every where cheering you on. There are even runners not competing in the race who come out to run with you or to also cheer you on.

Post race, they offer tons of food, like pizza at the middle school where the race finishes. You also earn a bad ass medal with JFK's face on it! It is my most prized possession!

For those who have never raced in the JFK, my recommendation would be to familiarize yourself with all terrain. Make sure you train on trails PRIOR to this event! It would also help if you exposed yourself to the Appalachian trail prior to the event because there are some difficult areas, like the switchbacks at mile 17. I am lucky enough to live in Boonsboro and have access to these trails and roads. It really helped me prepare and stop me from getting too nervous on race day.

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