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Frequently asked questions

Q

I’m not used to walking that long a distance. How can I train for the event?

Answer: 

This is a difficult walk mainly because it is long and at a time of the year where weather can be a big factor. It appeals to amateur athletes that already walk(or hike), run for recreation or even do marathons and triathlons. The main difference in a distance walk is the length of time and the number of repetitious steps. Most marathoners will complete a run in less than 5 hours. While walking is a much less intense form of exercise, this is nearly two times the distance, three times the length of time and many more times the footsteps.

The most common reason to not complete the distance is exhaustion and/or blisters and foot problems. These can be avoided by proper hydration, nutrition and carefully considering the right shoes and sox. Even so, walking this distance is a difficult task.  For a 50-mile walk, the best form of training is to practice walking by starting a planned program of walking near your home and slowly building, week by week to the point where you can do at least 50% of the distance. This will also give you some indication of whether you have the right clothing and equipment. 

Q

What happens if we experience other bad weather conditions?

Answer: 

There is no rain (or snow) date for this event. Regardless of weather, we expect that there will be some of the walkers walking, regardless of the weather. We'll post any weather related news here on this site. 

Q

Where do I start and finish? How long does the walk take?

Answer: 

The route now starts at the Anglers Inn C&O Parking Lot (MacArthur Blvd., Potomac, MD.) , and finish in the town of Harpers Ferry at the Econo Lodge. Walking should begin at 4:00 a.m. NOTE: you should get there about 3:30 for registration and briefing. Under good conditions - not too icy, no percipitiation, the walk can take from 14 to 19 hours, depending on a number of factors.

Bobby's walk was documented at 17 hours and 50 minutes (averaging 2.8 mph). The ability to complete the walk at about a 3 mph pace is reasonable goal if you are considering this event which would mean finishing at 9 p.m. in about 17 hours. Keep in mind that this is an average and includes breaks. Weather conditions, especially at this time of the year, can have an effect on the time needed. Fortunately, the trail is totally flat until the last mile or so in Harper's Ferry. If you are anot able to keep up a pace to finish around 9 pm we advise contacting our support crew to ride a leap-frog to the next support stop, this will enable you to keep pace but walk a shorter total distance.

If you would like to walk a shorter distance you might consider joining in along the route or dropping off at an interim point. You will need to provide your own transportation in any case. We will post a schedule on this website of estimated times at various milestones based on 3 mph average. We hope to be available via phone contact during the event. If you join us along the route, please let us know who is in your party and provide us with a cell phone number where we can reach you (call Paul Kiczek 973-214-1811). 

Q

What's it like to walk these 50 miles?

Answer: 

Walking 50 miles in one day, even in the best of conditions, is a difficult task. Keep in mind that this is the middle of the winter and weather will be a factor. Robert F. Kennedy took 17 hours and 50 minutes when he walked this route in 1963 - it was cold and the path was both icy and muddy - but it is flat. We feel that this is a reasonable goal for anyone wanting to try the 50 Mile Kennedy Walk with the group of us. This would represent a steady but not slow walking pace (about 2.8 mph) that most fit individudals can acheive. The key factor, however, is to keep the pace going and minimize long breaks.

While we hope to start as a group together, our experience shows that people pair off in smaller groups for various reasons, such as pace and conversation. Keep in mind that this is not a race. There is no one tracking your time. Others have walked (or even ran) this distance in hours less time. Again, a reasonable objective and something that would at least help appreciate Booby's feat would be to reach Harpers Ferry in about 17 or 18 hours. 

Q

Does it cost anything to participate in the walk?

Answer: 

Yes, this walk requires at least registering for basic support which is $50 this year. Our policy is normally to provide "free" walks where we can. However, due to the difficult conditions of this event we are requiring a fee to help us cover our cost. 

While the event is open to ALL walkers. Everyone should be prepared to be somewhat independent. We will provide basic support water, snacks, fruit, lunch campfires (where possible), and power bars. We also include free celebration party food and drink at end. We also provide portage of one bag forward to the end of the walk and "stop and hop" service where you can ride forward to other stops or drop out and ride to the end. However, most importantly, you should have a back-up resource to help you if you run into a problem. This website merely provides information about the planned walk. 

Our three support plans are:

  • Basic support: $50 per person (required) - sag supplies, baggage portage, ride backup, t-shirt, celebration party in Harpers Ferry
  • Basic support Plus - $65 per person - All basic support plue ride back to start.
  • Travel Package One - $100 per person (includes basic support + Pick up + Friday night lodging at historic lockhouse + Fri dinner  + Saturday ride back to start)
  • Travel Package Two - $150 per person (includes basic support + Pick up + Friday & Saturday night lodging at historic lockhouse + Fri dinner  + Saturday ride back to start + Sunday ride )

NOTE: If you choose basic support and need a ride back on Saturday night, space will be limited, you will be on lower priority, and there is no guarantee we can acccomodate you. There is an additional cost of $25 per person for requests made the day of the event. 

The most updated information will appear on this website and be sent to the email list.

Q

Why are you doing this event?

Answer: 

February 9, 2013, represented the 50th anniversary of the walk that Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, took along the the C&O Canal towpath. At the time, it was a way of sparking interest in physical fitness that this brother, the President, had been encouraging. The idea of walking, and the challenge of walking long distances, has been sidelined lately in our modern culture. What we are hoping to do is re-awaken an interest in "pedestrianism" and, in particular walking, as a means to stay fit and healthy that almost everyone can aspire to.

As a result of the 1963 RFK walk, and a related proclamation that John F. Kennedy ordered for our troops - that they walk 50 miles to prove their fitness - a public fad grew in 1963 to try walking 50-miles. That thousands might try to walk 50-miles overnight might seem unbeleivable today, but it was even more incredible then, as there was little emphasis on on physical fitness. Even though endurance sports were limited then, there was less reliance on cars and plenty of opportuntiies to be active and healthy. This was also the time of the cold war which brought with it a national competitive spirit - that we could and must strive to be better.

This event provides a way for the general public to participate together in a large-scale form of exercise and engage in history again, while visiting a different environment at a closer vantage point. Distance walking and "pedestrianism" is as old as mankind. It is as a result of our dependence on automobiles and other forms of transportation that our society has changed our communities. There are health and societal implications to our public policies. A walking event such as this follows a national movement to encourage and consider pedestrians (walking and cycling) in all community and transportation projects.

Q

What is the 50-Mile Kennedy Walk?

Answer: 

The 50-Mile Kennedy Walk is a one-day, 50-mile walk between Great Falls, Maryland and Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. The walk is hosted by the FreeWalkers, a non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting the physical and mental benefits of walking - in particular we beleive in special benefits of a long distance challenge.  The event is not dedicated to any cause or charity, although we support other charities that help us foster our objectives. We are an informal gathering of self-sufficient individuals who have an interest in the history and personal challenge of walking this extreme long distance, in the heart of the winter.

As far as we know, our first 2013 walk was the first to actually reprise the 50-mile walk taken by Robert F. Kennedy on February 9, 1963 (although the Sierra Club's annual "One Day Hike" covers much of the same ground). Extreme as it was then, that walk set the physical fitness bar then, which an anxious public used at the time to test their own capabilities. We are looking to channel the spirit of Bobby, Jack and Teddy as we make our trek along the Potomac.

We invite the public to join us with the caveat that any walker must understand that they are independently walking and providing the bulk of their own food and water and have a backup plan for assistance.  The walk starts at Great Falls park office and continues north all along the C&O Canal towpath until Harper's Ferry where we cross the pedestrian bridge over the river and end shortly after. The C&O towpath is completely flat but may have snowy or icy conditions at this time of the year, so it can be dangerous. Anyone interested in walking along with us should have experience walking or running long distances. Walking at a fairly steady pace of 3 MPH would require about 18 hours with only an hour or so of rest. We are not expected to all walk together, although it is advisable to have someone to walk with over such a long distance.

Q

Can anyone walk the 50-Mile Kennedy Walk?

Answer: 

Yes, anyone can walk, ride or participate. This walk is now supported by the FreeWalkers (freewalkers.org) which is a social network of long distance walkers. You do not have to be a member of FreeWalkers but we encourage you to join. There is no membershio fee and we publish information about our numerous events and the benefits of walking all year long. We are now a 501(c)3 non-profit and accept and appreciate your tax-deductible donations.

The Kennedy50 is a difficult walk, especially if you are aiming to finish the 50 mile journey with us in one day. For this particular walk we require registration and a basic support service. We also offer other attractive support options that provide lodging and transportation options. There are no rules or guidlines except those that are governed by the C&O Canal Park. Most walkers will start at our scheduled place and time. You can always walk at your own pace and with other walks as you choose.

Please keep in mind that the obective of the event is to walk 50 miles at a time where weather conditions can be difficult and there is a maximum of time to accomplish the 50-miles (all walkers should be finished by 10:00 pm) so we can provide support and assure safety.