Handicapping the JFK field

November 14, 2007

The JFK 50 Mile is my kind of course — mostly on smooth paths and roads. I’ll be disappointed if I don’t go sub-6:00 on Saturday, and if I can indeed run 5:50-something, I should contend for the overall win. Nevertheless, this year’s field is an outstanding one. Entrants such as the following may give me all I can handle, and perhaps more:

Pete Breckinridge (bib #1). Shocked everyone last year with a surprise victory (6:04:40) — apparently in his first ultramarathon ever and first serious race since the mid-’90s. Could be tough to beat now that he has another year of training and a few more races under his belt.

Dave Mackey (bib #834). Won the 2003 JFK in 5:55:30, the #4 time in the race’s 44-year history. Completed a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim traverse in a new record of 6:59:56 this past Sunday, according to the Ultralist, so may not be at his absolute best on Saturday.

Michael Wardian (bib #7). Known to some as the former owner of the treadmill marathon world record (2:23) and current owner of the baby jogger marathon world record (2:42). May have the best raw leg speed of anyone in the field; should do well if he has recovered from the Olympic Trials marathon two weekends ago, his 12th marathon of the year.

Mark Lundblad (bib #62). Placed 4th (6:20) in 2004 and 5th (6:24) in 2005. A breakthrough performance at last month’s Tussey Mountainback 50-Miler, which he won against top-notch competition, suggests that he’s ready to have his best JFK race yet.

Eric Grossman (bib #81). A professor of education at Emory & Henry College in Virginia, Grossman has also taught his fellow trail runners a thing or two, with wins in such major races as the 2006 Mountain Masochist 50-Miler.

Zachariach Miller (bib #92). Four years ago, Miller tied for 2nd with Grossman, each clocking 6:10. Two weekends ago, he eked out a 2-minute victory over Grossman at the Mountain Masochist 50. Both men will be factors here if they’ve recovered from that last duel.

Mike Morton (bib #837). Placed 5th in 6:08 way back in 1994, the year Eric Clifton set the JFK course record of 5:46:22. Subsequently set outstanding course records at the Vermont 100 in 1995 and the Western States 100 in 1997. I have no idea what he’s been doing since then, but if there’s anyone with the talent to launch a Breckinridge-like comeback, it’s this guy.

I don’t know as much about the women’s field, but Mark Lundblad’s wife Anne (bib #5) is the women’s course record holder (6:29:42) and has to be considered the favorite. Krissy Moehl (bib #69) has 18-minute 5K speed, which could allow her to keep up with Lundblad, but she may may tired from the recent Masochist race. 2005 Western States titlist Annette Bednosky (bib #22) is yet another runner who will place highly if she’s recovered from Mountain Masochist, where she was 2nd behind Nikki Kimball. Hillary Biscay (bib #2) has the coolest website of anyone in the field, and it documents her considerable success in Ironman triathlons. Dr. Carol O’Hear (bib #19) could do well if her residency is allowing her some time to train.

Other past champions slated to return this year are Ed Ayres (1977; bib #77), David Horton (1985; bib #85), 4-time winner Eric Clifton (1991, 1994, 1995, 1997; bib #839), and Sue Johnston (1999; bib #4).

Ian Torrence
(bib #832) has never snared an individual victory at JFK, coming closest with runner-up finishes in 2004 and 2005. However, he’s been a scoring member of the winning team — the team whose top three finishers have the lowest combined time — for at least the last nine years in a row! It’s as safe a bet as any that his squad this year — The Langoliers, consisting of himself, Mackey, Scott Wolfe (bib #833), and Mark Godale (bib #835) — will keep the streak alive.

Update for November 15: Krissy Moehl and David Horton have scratched, according to race director Mike Spinnler.


  1. Best of luck out there this weekend, Greg. I hope local boy Iron Mike Wardian can give you a race for a while. Does Mark Godale have the speed (16:07 at 2007 Burning River 100)to compete?Care to handicap the team race? Two stacked teams in the form of Boojum Snarks and The Langoliers.

  2. The JFK was my first 50 in '95 and I made every rookie mistake possible.Biggest one was not taking my time through the aid stations in the first 18 miles to get enough water. There aren't many stations (just two, I think) in that hilly, rocky part, so it's easy to blow through them and then regret it later.Also, be aware that a lot of guys run the first 20 miles as a workout and then drop out. That's all fine, except that on the single track on that section they will push you from behind and if you aren't careful, they will hound you into a faster pace than may be smart. If someone pushes up from behind, just step over and let them go. You will pass them later.All that said, once you get to the tow path, it's flat and fast, so save your legs until 20 miles, then go, man, go!I'll be there to cheer you on.Have fun!Bob

  3. Bob: Thanks for the tips.Goat: I just added a paragraph on the team race. The Snarks consist of two guys who were in their prime a decade ago (Morton and Clifton) and two guys I haven't heard of (Jeff Tiegs and Tim Hewitt), so my half-informed guess is that they'll be hard-pressed to match the Langoliers. As for Godale individually, I see him as a top-ten contender but a longshot to make the top three.

  4. I believe Michael Wardian also ran (and won) another marathon last weekend, eight days after the Trials.

  5. Good luck this weekend!! I look forward to hearing how it goes!

  6. Wardian did indeed run the OBX Marathon…and won it with a 2:24 I believe…

  7. Yes, Wardian recovered from the Trials by running 2:24 at the OBX Marathon this past Sunday. JFK will be six days later, giving him 2 marathons and a 50-miler in 15 days.

  8. go Greg, GO!

  9. Scott Wolfe is the darkhorse winner. Also know Jeff Tiegs is in good shape winning Odyssey 40 miler in Sept with a strong run on a tough course. Wardian will lead for 38 miles…then either go on to set the course record or he'll drop out. Run as easy through 20 miles as you can Greg. Good luck, loomdog

  10. Run Doogie run! Festina lente!

  11. go get 'em crowther!

  12. Wardian wins in 5:50, record still safe.

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