Countdown to the JFK 50

It’s almost here. Just a few more hours, and I will be lining up for the start of the 52nd annual JFK 50 Mile Run. The last five and a half months of training, with their ups and downs, have all come down to tomorrow’s adventure.

I am terrified.

In a good, excited kind of way, if that’s possible.

Still, I am terrified.

I started my obsessive weather-checking nine days ago, knowing full well I have no control over Mother Nature, yet anxiously watching the forecast change from sunny to rainy to partly cloudy to rainy, and now, finally, to sunny. Sunny with very little wind in the morning, changing to partly sunny in the early afternoon. It will be a brisk 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 Celsius) at the 7 am start, warming to a high of 42 (6 Celsius) by 2:00 pm, and then cooling down again to 37 Fahrenheit (3 Celsius) by 7:00 pm. I wouldn’t be upset if it were a tiny bit warmer, but no wind/snow/rain? I’ll take it.

This morning flew by as I prepared my supplies, carefully laying out everything to make sure I am not forgetting something. A lot can happen over 50 miles, so better to have more than not enough. Even if that means looking like I am packing for two years in the Peace Corps again.


Most of the food will be for my wonderful crew, kind enough to hang out all day while I run. It’s a lot of stuff, but better to be prepared than sorry!

Up until a week ago when just about every square mile of the continental United States was hit with a blast of Arctic air, the thought of having to run this race in tights/pants never even occurred to me. I’m not sure why; November 22 doesn’t exactly bring thoughts of tank tops and and flip flops to mind, but in this part of the country, a warm November is not unheard of, and my preference is always to run in shorts when I can. With the predicted low temperatures for tomorrow, though, it is entirely likely that I will run the whole race in tights. I bought a new pair from Nike, loose-fitting, and very comfortable (and yes, I did the requisite long run in them to make sure they don’t rub me the wrong way- literally). I may be able to convince myself that I am spending my Saturday in my pajamas, wearing those… just without the couch and the TV to watch. Other than those tights, my gear bag includes:

– an extra pair of running pants
– two pairs of shorts (just in case)
– two short-sleeved shirts
– two long-sleeved shirts
– a wind jacket
– two running bras
– two pairs of gloves
– two headbands
– a hat
– three pairs of socks
– three pairs of underwear
– arm warmers
– two pairs of shoes
– sunglasses
– running watch
– a headlamp
– a knee brace (just in case)
– a race belt (to hold my bib number so I don’t have to deal with safety pins if I change clothes)
– a towel
– a foam roller and stick (for rolling out tight muscles along the way)
– a foot kit /first aid kit (learned my lesson last time)
– hand warmers and toe warmers
– tissues
– wet wipes
– Bodyglide
– lemon-lime Gatorade
– salt tablets
– fruit
– lots of junk food
– a blanket

My ultimate goal for tomorrow is simply to make it to the finish line under the 12-hour time limit. I have a few sub-goals that will get me there:

1. Stay warm, stay warm, stay warm. Even with a high of 41 degrees for tomorrow, the “feel-like” will not rise above 37. No matter how tired I get, I have to keep moving fast enough to stay warm.

2. Stay well-fueled. Between the food I have packed and that which will be provided at the aid stations throughout the race, having access to fluids, carbs, and electrolytes won’t be an issue. Rather, stomaching these things has been difficult for me in past races, so paying attention to my energy levels and making sure I eat and drink before it’s too late will be really important tomorrow.

3. Take care of my feet. I’ve already got one black toenail and a couple of ugly calluses. That’s actually not too bad, considering the pounding my feet have taken in the last few months. I’ve definitely seen much worse among fellow runners. I usually have pretty good luck with my feet when I run, in fact. Still, I have gotten some nasty blood blisters in the past, and besides not being any fun, those can make running really difficult. Stay away, blisters. You are not welcome here.

Pre-race feet

Runners’ feet are never pretty. This is my “before” picture. I suspect a new bottle of toenail polish will be in order after tomorrow.

4. Take care of my knees, especially Leftie. They are going to hurt; that’s to be expected from a really long run. But they tend to get extra cranky when it’s cold out. Stay strong, knees, you can do this.

As I think about my feelings of terror and why they are there, I try to remind myself that tomorrow is all about enjoying the day and using the time to meditate and enjoy the unique camaraderie of an ultramarathon as I run through beautiful scenery and some of our country’s historic sites, including the Appalachian Trail, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Harper’s Ferry, and Antietam National Battlefield. It’ll be a like a day-long hike, I tell myself, only at a little faster pace and over a longer distance… and if all goes as planned, with my sweet husband and puppy, great friends, and a medal waiting for me at the end.

Thank you for reading!

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