The JFK 50 Mile, America's oldest ultramarathon, is famously difficult. The 13-mile section on the Appalachian trail is enough to make even Olympian Caitriona Jennings nervous — but nonetheless, she'll be on the starting line for its 60th running on Saturday the 19th.
When she was deciding whether to do the race, she received encouragement from Sarah Cummings, who won the women's race in 2021, and from Camille Herron, the 2020 winner:
"I asked the two girls how difficult the trail [section] was, and they both said, 'Yeah, it's difficult', but also that it was one of the best races they've ever done and that I should 100% do it. I'm ready to go out there and give it a shot."
The 42-year-old Donegal native couldn't have had a better run-up to the race, placing third at the 100K world championships in Germany in August of this year and first at the European 50K championships in Spain last month.
"In my head, I've had a brilliant season, a really successful year, right up there with one of my best, so I don't feel like I have a lot to lose, even if JFK doesn't go as well as I'd like to go...I don't want that regret of wondering what it would've been like if I had run."
The race is held in Maryland and includes a 26.3 mile stretch on the C&O canal as well as the trail section, so runners must reckon with flat as well as rugged ground.
On Saturday Jennings will face tough competition including last year's runner-up 28-year-old Sarah Biehl, from Columbus, Ohio, and the third place finisher from last year, 40-year-old Devon Yanko of Howard, Colorado.