JFK 50 mile race

America’s Oldest Ultra Still On: ‘JFK 50 Mile’ Race Faces Down Pandemic

The JFK 50 Mile race has been around since 1963. And despite the pandemic, it’s not stopping this year.

Normally, the fact that an ultrarace is happening as scheduled isn’t news. But in the age of COVID, when hundreds of worldwide and national races — including the Olympics — are canceled, the fact that one race will still run is noteworthy.

“We have every intention of holding the 58th annual JFK 50 Mile on its scheduled date,” the race team wrote in an update. “We are working diligently to make that happen, following guidelines to ensure the safety of all participants, spectators, volunteers and officials.”

Now, there are some changes. For one, there’s a capped capacity on participants — 1,200 this year. And there’s no longer a single start time, but several waves to space out runners. And in light of the COVID pandemic, the JFK 50 Mile organizers are requiring COVID-19 health screening within 24 hours of the race, and extra testing required for those traveling from out of state.

There also won’t be caravans of spectators or an awards ceremony, but there will still be aid stations.

Finally, if the 2020 race were to be canceled due to the COVID-19 (the race is in 2 days), participants can “defer their entry to a future race in 2021, 2022 or 2023.”

JFK 50 Mile Race History

The JFK 50 Mile, also known as the JFK 50 Memorial, has run every year since 1963. It actually started as a part of President John F. Kennedy’s push to encourage physical fitness. The first race was held in March 1963, but since the Kennedy assassination, it’s been historically held the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

The JFK 50 Mile runs on a point-to-point course. It starts in downtown Boonsboro, Maryland, but the race quickly changes, with a section of it on a singletrack portion of the Appalachian Trail.

The 50-mile foot race is very popular amongst military personnel, but it’s open to the public. As of today, registration is still open, and 12 spots remain.

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Mary Murphy
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Mary Murphy is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and serves as the leader of Lola Digital Media’s DEI Committee.

She has been writing about hiking, running, climbing, camping, skiing, and more for seven years, and has been on staff at GearJunkie since 2019. Prior to that, Mary wrote for 5280 Magazine in Denver while working as an outdoor instructor teaching climbing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and mountain biking at Avid4Adventure. Based in Denver, Colorado, Murphy is an avid hiker, runner, backpacker, skier, yogi, and pack-paddleboarder.