Gregory Crowther ’95 can run a mile faster than you, even if he has just run 49 miles before.
In the deepest and fastest field in JFK 50 Mile history, Seattle’s Gregory Crowther staged a breathtaking rally to beat them all and win Saturday’s 47th edition of America’s oldest and largest ultramarathon.
Crowther, 36, passed Michael Arnstein, 32, of New York City, in the second-to-last mile and crossed the finish line in front of Springfield Middle School in 5 hours, 50 minutes, 13 seconds — the second-fastest time in JFK history.
Arnstein appeared in good shape when he turned off the towpath onto Dam 4 Road with 8.4 miles to go.
“At (mile) 42, I was going for the course record,” said Arnstein, who finished second in 5:50:58 for the fourth-best time in JFK history. “A mile later, I knew I didn’t have it, so I eased off.”
Little did he — or anyone else — know Crowther was surging. He moved into fourth place at 34.4 miles and was in third at 38.5 miles, 3:16 behind Arnstein and 27 seconds behind Matt Woods, 30, of Falls Church, Va.
Crowther was relentless, catching and passing Woods — who finished third in 5:54:10 for the seventh-best time in history — at the end of the towpath section, and reeling in a slowing Arnstein in the final five miles. Arnstein’s lead was 2:13 with four miles to go, but two miles later it was down to about 10 seconds, and Crowther made the pass with 5:40:35 on the clock.
“I was seven minutes behind the lead runners off the trail. I knew I’d be behind, but I knew I had 35 miles to catch up,” Crowther said. “It’s a cliché, but you try to run your own race, and that’s what I did. When I passed him, he told me, ‘Nice job,’ and it was basically a concession.”
Read the whole thing. More details at Greg’s blog.
“Where the hell did you come from?” That was Michael Arnstein’s question as I pulled even with him during the 49th mile of the JFK 50.
Michael’s surprise was understandable, for he had been gliding toward an apparent victory for quite some time while I slowly reeled in the people behind him. After a cautious traverse of the 15.5-mile Appalachian Trail section of the course, I was in about 15th place, seven minutes behind the leaders. It wasn’t until mile 25 or so that I broke into the top ten and mile 35 or so that I entered the top five. I finally overtook 2nd place (Matt Woods, running his first-ever 50-miler) at mile 40 or 41. I was three minutes behind Michael at that point, and when told at mile 44 that I was still three minutes behind him, I gave up on the idea of winning. I was working really hard to run 6:50 miles over rolling country roads, and without a target in sight, I couldn’t go any faster.
Then at mile 46 I was told that the lead was down to 2:11, and the chase was on again. I accelerated, brought Michael into view, accelerated some more, and hunted him down like the cold-blooded killer I can be in such situations. Poor guy. I wound up with the narrowest margin of victory in the 47-year history of the race, 45 seconds, and the second-fastest time in race history, 5:50:13. It was undoubtedly the most exciting ultramarathon finish of my life, and I think the photographic evidence will confirm that I broke the tape with a huge smile on my face.