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John F. and Robert F. Kennedy (JFK, RFK) inspired an overnight craze that swept the nation, in February 1963, when RFK, the U.S. Attorney General walked 50 miles from Great Falls, Maryland to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The journey was initialized by his brother, JFK, the U.S. President, who adapted a 1908 50-mile military marching challenge of President Theodore Roosevelt. News of RFK's feet-fete inspired thousands of Americans and Europeans to attempt 50-mile walks in their own surroundings. Though this phenomenon has continued to thrive in 30 to 40 different overseas locations, apparently, only the DC area JFK 50-Miler, which evolved into a run race over a modification of RFK's route, has continued in the U.S.

The organizer who reinitiated this challenge to walk as many as 50 Miles in 2013, got the event tweeted by the JFK Library, featured on WUSA TV 9 and National Public Radio (NPR). He was interviewed and included in the latter. Though he did the planning, logistics, organizing and supervision, he had help with the website and the research. Ethel, Mrs. Robert Kennedy, responded to inquiry through her personal secretary confirming her husband’s route.

True to the original route, the 4th annual Kennedy Marches - RFK "can-do" spirit is alive each year the first Saturday in February upon taking that first step at 4 am, in the cold, marching down the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath. Befittingly, your organizer, created the 22 mile Kennedy Marches, JFK –Vet exactly 50 years after JFK’s death, on 22 November, 2013. Also staged annually, it starts and ends at Arlington Cemetery thereby saluting both the decorated JFK and other American veterans (read more below).

One definition terms a march thus: “the act of moving forward at a steady pace or beat.” In order to “go the distance” you will “find” yourself in just such a rhythm, fostered by your effort. You need no military, or other marching experience, to be a Kennedy Marcher as you set your own pace and optional distance. Marching in-step, cadence calling and discrete “Jody” song-singing are all permissible but obviously not required. The term “march” connotes no particular cause is this endeavor, though you may agree each walker has one of his own. It is utilized as such in order to recognize the historic military origination and maintain association with the more than 30 European Kennedy Marches. Your organizer has attended several and hopes you will accompany him there also. He has a special Kennedy kinship with the 50 - year organizer of the Kennedy Mars (March) – Sittard, Holland.

There are several transportation and parking options available for the February “RFK50-Miler March.” One being both MARC and AMTRAK trains rides. Upon request, there are February 4th and 5th options to stage personal vehicles in Harpers Ferry and be shuttled back to DC area by a Kennedy March volunteer.
Pre-arranged Saturday night and Sunday morning KM vehicle transport back to your personal vehicle parked at start, in Harpers Ferry or the NPS parking lots en route are available. However, your family or friends are likely able to be more timely. There is no parking allowed in the historic downtown of Harpers Ferry. The Kennedy Marches is providing an alternative parking area, upon request.

You also have a convenient opportunity to stay on the C&O Canal Towpath in a historic, no frills, yet modernized, canal lockhouse right next to the towpath the night before the walk. Supreme Court Justice Douglas “slept here” when he did his long walk to save the C&O Towpath from being turned into a roadway. Earlier shift working volunteers are more than welcome to sleep here for free. Please bring your own bed linens, towels and pillows or arrange for them with the Kennedy March. We will have a roaring campfire with spaghetti dinner, clean up the kitchen and common areas before retiring, lights out no later than 7 pm. Awaking at 2 am, help complete the clean-up checklist, eat breakfast and depart by 3 am in the Kennedy March shuttle or in your own vehicle. You can only park overnight here with a NPS parking permit (see below) displayed in your windshield. You also have the option to begin your walk from here. The Bolger Center Hotel, Potomac Maryland, nearby the event start is also recommended. The Kennedy Marches can also provide you a very economical place to stay Saturday night and shuttle you there from the Potomac Grille finish locale.

This year you have the option to start considerably later than the main body of walkers, but you must prearrange this and, if walking 50-miles, you also must arrive no later than the main body of walkers’ deadline of 9:30 pm. All others, please arrive at start no later than 3:30 AM on February 6th at the C&O Canal National Historical Park parking lot, south across the road from the Old Angler’s Inn, 10801 MacArthur Blvd, Potomac, MD 20854. The Inn is not part of the NPS and has signs posted promising to tow cars parked in their private lot on the North side of McArthur Blvd. However, you must select what the NPS terms the “Angler’s Inn” parking lot and obtain a permit for any overnight parking there through the NPS here: http://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/permits-reservation .... An itinerary and map handout will be provided but a Google Maps ap on your phone is highly advised.

En route, after our 4 am start, participants have six volunteer-manned support check points: including the White's Ferry, Maryland National Park Service parking lot at the march’s midpoint, three Canal Quarters Lockhouses, Brunswick Family Campground and the Keep Tryst Rd. Parking Area. You can arrange overnight parking at any of the lockhouses or other NPS parking lots along the route. Your stowed gear, food, water, hot chocolate, sport bars/drink, campfires and pre-arranged backup family or friend link-up vehicle rides will be provided. The event ends just after the Harpers Ferry footbridge at the Potomac Grille, 186 High St., close to the train station.

Please, please abide by the NPS prohibition of any alcohol at the lockhouses or anywhere else within the park. Alcohol and caffeine are both physical detractors on long walks and contribute to dehydration. The Potomac Grille finish site will have warm food and alcohol available. Please also consider refreshing your memory on preventing cold weather injuries, especially hypothermia? You are encouraged to challenge yourself and walk a distance of your own choosing. However, please be realistic about your conditioning, experience and ability to weather what can be extreme conditions. If walking 50 miles, you must be able to walk a minimum average of three miles per hour and arrive no later than 9:30 in Harpers Ferry. If you are unable to walk the projected distance and time you project and provide to us, you may have to ride in a support vehicle longer than you would prefer. On-call family and friend in-support to pick you up in this eventuality is best. Extreme conditions could warrant postponing the march until February 13, or even later. Monitor the NPS Canal Park website for their alerts, please. They have our itinerary, are fully apprised of our march and we can reach their help desk if need be. However, emergencies require a 911 call, and the NPS assures that there is very good cell service throughout the march route. Nevertheless, there will always be a support vehicle located at the next check point or the following one, ready to reach you upon your call.

You must pay your Potomac Grille bill directly to your waiter. Any general donation, or lodging arranged through the Kennedy Marches for the night of 5 February must be paid for through PayPal. No money is to be paid en route for the Kennedy March provisions which are essentially free-of-charge unless you see fit to donate through PayPal. Students, age 22 and under, please ignore the transportation costs, if you donate. No matter what your pace, 3 or up to 4 mph, you can count on at least one stationary support volunteer at each of the check points with all of the support items on-hand. There will also be Subway sandwiches available at each of the three mid-day main support check points. The Potomac Grille finish location, voluntarily guaranteed to stay open until 10 pm.

Volunteers are the most important element the day of the march and make a great difference. Walkers do not hesitate to praise them. There are now several volunteers but it would be good to have more and some on standby and willing to step-in if current volunteers have to cancel. Family members and friends wanting to cheer you or walk some of the route for themselves are particularly valuable and welcome to contact your organizer to volunteer. Especially those who have higher occupancy vehicles, first aid certification and or willingness to bicycle portions of the route in support. They can either drive a vehicle or work a check point location. Ideally, three to five hour stationary shifts, depending on when the last walker signs-in, are best. If you plan to walk a distance short of the 50 miles, your friend or family member could man the check-in point where you plan to finish, then drive you to your vehicle and or home. Drivers are also needed to “ferry” walkers back to the DC area on Thursday or Friday evening after some stage their vehicles in Harpers Ferry for their return drive home after the walk. These walkers can also volunteer by driving other walkers back to their vehicles or home. Rental vehicles will be provided to support volunteer drivers if your own vehicle is not suitable. All support volunteers will be reimbursed at the Potomac Grille finish. You must also attend at least one volunteer rehearsal to familiarize yourself with your duties.

Please join in the 5th “RFK” Kennedy March, DC, a National Park Service (NPS) 2016 Centennial Celebration event. A NPS representative selected the Kennedy March for this honor and is directly involved in the planning and execution of the event.

Another Kennedy March in the DC area occurs annually each weekend closest to 22 November. February. This year, the Kennedy Marches’ JFK-Vet March takes place on 22 November: Meeting at Arlington Cemetery’s main entrance no later than 8 am. From there the route includes JFK’s Eternal Flame and RFK’s resting place and goes directly above, up to the Lee-Custis Mansion and exits at the cemetery exit leading to the Iwo Jima monument no later than 8:45 am. You can walk a maximum of 22 miles or utilize the convenient Metrorail system stops to walk shorter portions, also. The route is rectangular and includes the Iwo Jima Monument, Roosevelt Island, the Kennedy Center, Rock Creek Park, Kennedy Avenue, the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the National Mall and the Eternal Flame at its beginning and end. An itinerary and map handout will be provided at start but a Google Maps app on your phone is highly advised.

Please understand that this is a march, a hike, a long walk. It is not a run or even a jogging event.

“Walk on”

Ray Smith
Kennedy Marches Director
Outdoor Fitness and Certified Interpretive Guide
smithr5612@hotmail.com/703-732-7724 (text or phone)

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