"What we must do is change the physical habits of millions of Americans and that is far more difficult than changing their tastes, their fashions or even their politics." -JFK, December 5, 1961
The JFK 50 mile ultra marathon was first held in the spring of 1963. At that time, it was one of numerous such 50 mile events held around the country as part of President John F. Kennedy's push to bring the country back to physical fitness. President Kennedy's initial inspiration for the event derived from his challenge to the country's military officers to meet the same fitness requirements for officers as established by President Theodore Roosevelt at the dawn of the 20th century. Roosevelt required all military officers to be able to cover 50 miles on foot, in 20 hours, to maintain their commissions. When word circulated about the "Kennedy Challenge", non-commissioned military personnel also wished to take the test themselves as did certain robust members of the civilian population.
When President Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963, the majority of these races were never held again. In 1964, the Washington County, Maryland race changed its name from the 'JFK 50 Mile Challenge' to the 'JFK 50 Mile Memorial'. The Washington County, Maryland JFK 50 Mile Memorial is the only original JFK 50 Mile Challenge event to be held every year since its inaugural race. Although open to the public, the JFK 50 Mile Memorial began and has always been, in spirit, a military race.
Of the many awards presented at the annual JFK 50 Mile Memorial, the most prestigious is the Kennedy Cup, which is awarded to the top-finishing military team. Each military team may have a maximum of 10 participants and the finishing times from the top-five finishers are then combined for the team time. The lowest timed score wins. All finishers within the official 12-hour time-limit (14-hour time-limit for those officially entered in the 5:00 a.m. start) receive a beautiful, uniquely designed JFK 50 mile finisher’s medallion immediately after crossing the finish line. The top 10 men and women as well as the first male and female in the following age divisions (19-and-under, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79 and 80-and-over) and the first Men's and Women's Team finishers are also recognized at the awards ceremony.
November 17, 2012 will mark the 50th running of the JFK 50 Mile Memorial. To learn more about the JFK 50 Mile ultra marathon, please visit the race website at http://www.jfk50mile.org.