“Kennedy Challenge” Ultramarathon in Western Maryland is “Last of its Kind”
Boonsboro, MD — In the spring of 1963, President John F. Kennedy put forth a challenge to get America moving again. Kennedy was committed to challenging members of the U.S. Military to keep up with a rigorous skillset put in place at the beginning of the 20th Century by then-President Theodore Roosevelt. More than a half-century later, residents of Washington County, Maryland continue their commitment to the former president’s vision, with the annual JFK 50 Mile Ultramarathon.
“The original challenge, to cover 50 miles on foot in one day, was issued by Teddy Roosevelt in the early 1900s. JFK greatly admired Roosevelt and, after a 50-year hiatus, (Kennedy) reissued the ‘Roosevelt/Kennedy Challenge’ during his administration,” explained Mike Spinnler, Race Director for the JFK 50 Mile. Spinnler is not only the Race Director for the JFK 50 Mile, he is also a past participant and two-time winner, “This event is conducted annually in Washington County, and it’s the last surviving ‘Kennedy Challenge’ event existing in the United States.”
Following Kennedy’s death, which happened just a few months after the inaugural nationwide Kennedy Challenge, many communities decided not to continue the JFK 50 Mile, or held a memorial run in its place, as Washington County did in 1964. For Spinnler, who competed from 1971 through 1990, and has served as race director since 1993, the credit for the race’s longevity and success is one shared by many, “We get amazing community support from local government, local businesses, hundreds of local residents who volunteer their time and energy, as well as the amazing assistance from Dan Spedden and his staff with the Hagerstown/ Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.”Continue reading