Ever tried a Kennedy Walk? Can you hike 50 miles in one day?  It's a great challenge for a Democratic activist: honor one of our great Presidents while knowing that you're in prime physical marching shape.

In the official JFK Library-sanctioned version of this story, JFK hears that Theodore Roosevelt expected Marines to march 50 miles in 20 hours, and challenges his cabinet to do the same; Robert Kennedy walks 50 miles through snow and slush in leather dress shoes (covering 50 miles in 17.5 hours); millions of Americans mistakenly think they're being challenged too, and emulate RFK's example. For a brief time circa February 1963, marching 50 miles was the rage, along with goldfish-swallowing, marathon-dancing, VW-stuffing, and the like.  Here's a Time article (pdf), complete with a photo of a man wearing a shirt reading: "50 Miles With Great Vigah!"  JFK never walked 50 miles himself -- but he once followed a couple of walking friends in a car, honking and drinking daiquiris (one hopes that someone else did the actual driving).  More JFK 50 mile hike history here

Is this even doable?  The number sounds daunting, but first, do some basic math.  People walk, on average, between 3 and 4 miles per hour on a flat surface.  Three miles per hour is, for me, a too-leisurely stroll at the mall, and four miles per hour is a fast clip that can't be sustained indefinitely; but that's me, and you should find your optimal pace on a treadmill.  So, at 3 mph, you'd need to walk nearly 17 hours; I could cover 50 miles by walking a little over 14 hours at my comfortable 3.5 mph; and if you could sustain 4.0 mph, you could cover 50 miles in 12.5 hours.  Obviously, this doesn't include time spent on food and bathroom breaks.  Short answer: yes, it's doable, if you're prepared.  (Hint on preparation: dress shoes = not a good idea.)

Weight and hills slow hikers down immensely.  A hiker carrying a 25 lb pack and ascending 1000 feet/mile will be happy to hike 2 miles per hour.  I've done my share of strenuous 16-20 mile one day hikes of 5000' elevation gain, where I slow down to 2 mph -- for example, the 18 mile Half Dome hike took me 8 hours to do.  To complete 50 miles in a day, you'd have to carry minimal weight, plan on plenty of water refills, and stick to flattish trails.

Another possibility is to run 50 miles (or as much of 50 miles as you can) -- a standard ultramarathon distance, if anything about an ultramarathon is "standard."  JFK's inspiration lives on in Maryland at the JFK 50 Mile Race; last year's winner covered the course in a tad over 6 hours, or 7:19 mph average pace -- that's a fast running pace, and I'm in awe of anyone who can keep up that speed for that distance.  The military personnel who enter have an enormous advantage in physical preparation and mental discipline over the rest of us.  I salute them.

One challenge might be in simply mapping out a route.  Both RFK's original walk and the JFK Memorial route follow the Chesapeake & Ohio towpath, which is relatively flat and scenic.  Although Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles runs 50 miles, I'm not a fan of smog, traffic, or red lights.  Walking the California coastline sounds romantic, but sand in shoes over long miles causes serious foot damage (trust me on this!) and some Malibu property owners are unclear on the concept of public property.  Hilly trails, such as the Pacific Crest and High Sierra trails, are not one-day hikes.  The Carrizo Plain, California's largest stand of mostly undisturbed grassland, looks promising -- conveniently, 50 miles long, with not one, but several fascinating stories of the San Andreas fault, solar power, politics, and a nasty power struggle ending in death.  Among other things, compare Bill Clinton's midnight regulations -- declaring national monuments as he left office -- with Bush43's various midnight regulations designed to wreak havoc on the environment.

I was inspired to write this diary by, among other things, a Fitness Monday diary by ClapClapSnap, on walking 50 miles on Cape Cod for a good cause.  KKMama has taken up the Saturday morning Get Fit Challenge by vowing to amass enough running miles to equal the 2,175 mile long Appalachian Trail -- wow!  And, if hiking in Maryland, check out not only RFK's route but also the sights that daveUSA found on a road trip to Four Fun Things (by car, not on foot).  I might even try a JFK Walk, with great vigah!

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#### Comment Preferences

• ##### Tips for great vigah?(16+ / 0-)

Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, discussing outdoor adventures Tuesdays at 5 PM PDT

• ##### yes, but there're no little boxes for tips...(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
BlackSheep1, pixxer, indigoblueskies

I wonder if I haven't been spending enough time on Kos these last few days???

Can't be so... tho' I have been commenting as much lately...

• ##### Probably got here too late to rec (like me).(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
indigoblueskies

The little boxes live only 24 hours :(

Neat diary, huh? I admit I don't remember all that, though I was definitely old enough to have been aware of it, and even living outside DC, well within the Presidential "aura."

Our system of law is premised on the idea that an unfettered government - rather than criminals - is the greatest danger to our lives and liberty.
NCrissieB

[ Parent ]

• ##### My best friend and I did the 50 mile walk(5+ / 0-)

in 1963, when it was all the rage thanks to JFK.  We started at Wilshire and Sepulveda in West Los Angeles, hiked fifteen miles into the San Fernando Valley, developed massive sideaches and foot blisters,  and called our Moms to come and pick us up.

Fifty miles is a frickin' LONG way to walk.

Being a majority party means very little if you can't work the system to push your agenda forward.

• ##### That is very cool!(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
sberel, Bronx59, earicicle

I was born during his presidency so obviously I don't know what he was like, but he must have been very inspiring.

Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, discussing outdoor adventures Tuesdays at 5 PM PDT

[ Parent ]

• ##### yes, it must have been wonderful to be so inspire(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
pixxer, indigoblueskies
• ##### Yes you do know. Read your morning paper :)(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
indigoblueskies

We're living in a flashback. It is something I thought I would never see again in my lifetime - a President with sparkle and ... vigah to inspire us all.

Our system of law is premised on the idea that an unfettered government - rather than criminals - is the greatest danger to our lives and liberty.
NCrissieB

[ Parent ]

• ##### So many fantastic things to do...so little time(4+ / 0-)

Why did you have to mention daiquiris? :)

• ##### Did 80 miles of backpacking last week(4+ / 0-)

Longest day of the trip was just over 15 miles.

Longest day ever was on the C&O Canal, 20 miles with pack.  At the end I concluded that the only way I would travel the whole thing was on a bicycle.

• ##### Tonight, I'm dreaming of a leisurely hike in (5+ / 0-)

Joshua Tree National Park I'd like to take some day.

Just thought I'd share...

Sweet are the uses of adversity...Find tongues in the trees, books in the brooks, and good in everything. -Shakespeare, As You Like It.

• ##### Take me with you! :)(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
sberel, earicicle

Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, discussing outdoor adventures Tuesdays at 5 PM PDT

[ Parent ]

• ##### Do you have a route to suggest?(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
sberel, earicicle, indigoblueskies

I'm planning to go there next month.

• ##### I've never been, but a friend was recently there,(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
sberel, indigoblueskies

and said it was beautiful. I hope to go hiking there with him some day.

Enjoy! ;-)

Sweet are the uses of adversity...Find tongues in the trees, books in the brooks, and good in everything. -Shakespeare, As You Like It.

[ Parent ]

• ##### Look around for the place they fried Gram Parsons(0+ / 0-)

I think it's in the Jumbo Rocks area IIRC.

Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, discussing outdoor adventures Tuesdays at 5 PM PDT

[ Parent ]

• ##### icing my ankle after the last(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
sberel, earicicle, indigoblueskies

5K class. I'll miss it, though it frequently was painful.

50 miles is just amazing.

Hill Country Ride for AIDS my HCRA Pag

• ##### when I was in 8th grade(4+ / 0-)

the whole Kennedy national fitness was going on and there was competition in the school. I did an ungodly number of sit ups, I was  small and light as a feather so it didn't seem to take much effort. A few days later my stomach muscles were terribly sore. It was a numb thing to do. Nowadays they don't do sit ups with your legs straight and someone holding them down. That's what I've been told anyways.

music- the universal language

• ##### Today, it's all about the crunches, baby!(2+ / 0-)

Those old-fashioned sit-ups actually work the hip flexors more than the abs, anyway, and put too much stress on your back.

Sweet are the uses of adversity...Find tongues in the trees, books in the brooks, and good in everything. -Shakespeare, As You Like It.

[ Parent ]

• ##### i added body weight, which definitely slows me (1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
indigoblueskies

down (i'm working on it, slowly).

• ##### Let the word go fawth!(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
indigoblueskies
• ##### too old to go back to the way I was in USAF Basic(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
indigoblueskies

Need to work up, I guess.

Not the 50-mile hike with the 40-lb field pack, though. That's for hardcore, ate-up-with-it, Marine-type folks.

If you really want to be in decent shape make yourself able to walk ten miles in three hours, without getting out of breath. Herschel Walker, one of the best of the long-career NFL running backs, used to do 1,000 situps and 1,000 pushups daily. Hard to argue with his fitness level, I think.

But no, it won't put you in USMC or SEAL shape.

Texas: Molly Ivins, Ann Richards, Bill Moyers, Sam Rayburn, Lady Bird & LBJ, Barbara Jordan, Lloyd Bentsen, Jim Hightower, Dan Rather, Ike. It's No Bush Lea