By Jimmy Buff. Poughkeepsie Journal.
A little over 51 years ago Robert Kennedy walked 50 miles in a single day. Kennedy, attorney general at the time, was responding to an initiative made by his brother, the president: to make Americans more aware of their fitness.
The idea came to President John F. Kennedy from one of his predecessors in the office, Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt had challenged troops to be able to march 50 miles in 20 hours and John F. Kennedy thought that a grand idea for the Marines of the early ’60s, too. He also thought it would be great if someone from his administration took on the challenge and so on a cold February day in 1963 Robret Kennedy, wearing Oxford loafers in the slush, walked from Washington, D.C., to Harpers Ferry, Va., and the sport of ultra-marathons was born.
An ultra-marathon is any distance over 26.2 miles, and since 1963, hundreds of ultras have sprung up, including the John F. Kennedy 50 Miler, inspired by Robert Kennedy’s walk and held each year since then. The footwear has improved a lot in that time, and today’s ultra-marathoner is usually a well-trained athlete with good gear. In addition, many events have an impetus to raise awareness about a particular thing (much like Robert Kennedy’s walk to raise awareness about fitness) and one of those is Rock the Ridge, a 50-miler set for May 3-4 within the Mohonk Preserve. See full article online or view as a PDF.