Will Robinson, Middlebury, his cousin Sam Robinson and uncles Steve and George Robinson, Warren, ran the JFK 50-mile race in Maryland last weekend. The race is the oldest ultramarathon in the U.S., founded in 1963 as part of President John F. Kennedy’s push for physical fitness. In 1964, the race’s name became the JFK 50-mile Memorial.
Will Robinson, who grew up in Warren and graduated from Harwood Union High School, wanted to challenge himself. He started out as a long-distance hiker and hiked the Long Trail this past summer. When his uncle asked him if he’d like to do a 50-mile running race, he transitioned to running.
In early November, he completed 112 miles in the RutFest in Williston. He finished in 27 hours and said that he switched between walking and running for much of the race. “My only goal was to race 100 miles,” he said. “I didn’t need to push myself.” He approached the JFK 50 a little differently. He said it was the first long distance race that he really ran.
With the JFK race, “I really wanted to push myself and get a good time,” he said. “When I first signed up, I wanted to finish in 13 hours.” Runners who do not complete the 50 miles in 13 hours are pulled off the course. He finished in eight hours, 39 minutes and 38 seconds, qualifying for the Eastern States in Pennsylvania, a 100-mile race. “I wanted to do the best I possibly could. I exceeded all my expectations. It was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”
The Robinson family members each ran on their own. “That was the best way for us to do it,” Will Robinson said. “Run your own run,” instead of trying to keep up or slow down due to others. “Knowing that they were at the event and we were doing it as a family was so helpful.” Having his cousin and uncles training at the same time was a motivator. “To have that moral support the whole time” was inspiring, he said. They’d been training since last summer and were able to commiserate over injuries and difficult runs.
There was also another family member who helped motivate the Robinsons. Will’s grandfather and longtime Valley resident Lenord Robinson passed away last summer shortly after Will hiked the Long Trail. Due to his speed, Will’s trail name is “The Flash,” unbeknownst to his grandfather, who happened to have a hat that said, “The Flash.” Following his grandfather’s death, Will found the hat. “Whenever I run or hike, I’m wearing the Flash hat,” he said. “I’m running or hiking with him in my mind.”