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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.


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#1 Comment By Diana On November 29, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

Great job to Greg! What an exciting race. Thanks for the race writeup and for highlighting it on EphBlog.

Gregory Crowther ‘95 can run a mile faster than you, even if he has just run 49 miles before.


#2 Comment By David On November 29, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

Perhaps “faster than most of you” would be more accurate.

Although, needless to say, this raises an interesting statistical question. If there are 25,000 or so alumni, how many can run a mile faster than Greg ran his last? Surely fewer than 1,000 . . . 500? . . .

#3 Comment By frank uible On November 30, 2009 @ 3:49 am

Cruel and unusual self-flagellation!

#4 Comment By PTC On November 30, 2009 @ 4:57 am

David- How fast was his last mile? He said he was sub 6:50 min over rolling hills for a long period of the race, but I did not catch the time of the last mile.

How many current students can do that (run a sub 6:50 with hills) – about three hundred maybe? It is not a hard pace, but most people would need to be running a lot to do it.

How many could do it after running 49 miles? I would guess- none. But there may be a couple of marathon runners who could keep that pace. 50 miles is a hell of a long race. Even if you trained for it, a lot would depend on the conditions during a run like that… as well as some luck avoiding injury or a physical meltdown of some kind.

#5 Comment By PTC On November 30, 2009 @ 5:08 am

Anyhow, 50 miles running at a pace like that is really something…


He should go check this one out since he is in condition for it… I am not a big runner, but friends of mine who are and who have run races like the above mentioned have told me that the Run to the Sun is a real kick in the teeth.