POTOMAC, MD — At 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 8, a group of almost 200 hearty long-distance hikers plan to travel 50 miles by foot in one day. Walkers will travel from Old Anglers parking lot in Potomac, MD, to Harper’s Ferry, WV, along the banks of the Potomac River on the C&O Canal Towpath. The pro-walking network called FreeWalkers out of New Jersey has plans to once again recreate a famously long, one-day event that moved a nation 57 years ago.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy, challenged his military leaders to march 50 miles to prove they were as fit as those that served in 1908 under President Theodore Roosevelt, who had originally issued a similar order. But, JFK also passed that challenge to others by making it known that his White House staff should lead by example. The idea of a 50-mile hike suddenly became a popular one-day endurance feat that swept the nation. It seemed to perfectly reflect a nation seeking challenge and displaying a growing interest in physical fitness.
JFK’s brother, Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, was never one to turn down a good challenge. Bobby became the first of thousands that were to walk 50 miles that year. His feat was all the more special as he trekked for 17 hours and 50 minutes in a pair of dress shoes on the C&O Canal towpath, facing a bitterly cold icy February. It would be a battle of determination over any training. He would outlast four staffers, his dog, and several not-so-intrepid reporters finishing the feat alone in the dark at Harpers Ferry.
FreeWalkers Founder Paul Kiczek senses many parallels between that watershed year of 1963 and our present challenges in 2020. “At that time we had military threats, an uncertain economy, racial and religious tensions and public health and fitness issues, too,” Kiczek said.
Each year this challenge has captured the imagination of a growing group of intrepid walkers as they trek the same route along the Potomac. Walkers from over twenty states and four countries will participate in the 2020 event.
Everyone is welcome to participate in the event and learn more about its history at http://kennedy50.org. Join the FreeWalkers as they walk the same 50-mile path as RFK in an effort to channel the memory and experience of an ageless grand physical challenge.
FreeWalkers, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that offers events, information, & networking aimed at educating the public on the benefit of walking. Visit http://freewalkers.org for more information.
Editor's Note: TAPinto Plainfield Editor Jennifer Popper is on the FreeWalkers board of trustees.