The JFK 50-miler demanded everything they had to give — and then a little bit more.

Long before Pastor Chris Freet, Beach Lake fm Church, Paul Maopolski and David Kennedy toed the starting line at the Maryland marathon, Saturday, they’d already crossed one finish line.


The JFK 50-miler demanded everything they had to give — and then a little bit more.
Long before Pastor Chris Freet, Beach Lake fm Church, Paul Maopolski and David Kennedy toed the starting line at the Maryland marathon, Saturday, they’d already crossed one finish line.

Backed by their home church and the local community, they’d raised over $6,600 for Clear Blue, a mission’s project to provide clean drinking water for countries without. What started as a personal pact between three close friends, to run an ultra-marathon, became a Christ-centered commitment to bless others. And people rallied. “It warms my heart,” Kennedy said, how people pulled together.


   “We’re capable of so much more than we realize,” said Pastor Freet. “We all did really well, with money for Clear Blue and also with the race itself.”


A perfect day
Race day was perfect, Kennedy said, rain free with temperatures warming into the fifties.
With the finish line in mind, they set off at a nice, easy pace. “A slower pace is almost essential. If you go out too hard, then your muscles just aren’t there at the end,” Kennedy said.
“It was exciting to have these guys with me,” Kennedy said of his friends, an encouragement to one another. Maopolski and Kennedy ran a good 38 miles together, while Pastor Freet eased ahead. 


This was a first 50 miler for the pastor and Maopolski. “In today’s world, where everything is comfortable, it was an opportunity. It was an adventure,” Maopolski said. “I would do it again and I haven’t said that about every marathon I’ve run.”


His advice to someone considering it? “You can do it. It’s possible if you put the time in, put the training in. I used to think: It’s got to be genetics. If you can get your mind around it, your body will follow,” Maopolski said.


“Another key aspect is support from my family,” Maopolski said. He, his wife Dee, and their two young children run together whenever possible.


“Really tough”
“I’m not going to lie and say this was easy, because it was really tough,” Pastor Freet said. “The one thing that kept going through my mind is I wanted to bring glory to God. I came away feeling like I did that.”


An initial goal to finish the race in under 10 hours was slashed to nine.


He remembers that last 1/2 mile, and the encouragement of a race volunteer. “You’re there. You only have a half of a mile to go,” she said. As that shout washed over him, the pastor says he cried. He crossed the finish line in 8 hours 51 minutes and 11 seconds.


As they placed the finishing medal around his neck, Pastor Freet says, “I praised and broke down and just thanked God for the opportunity.”


It’s like the Biblical Passage: 1 Corinthians 9: 25-27, Pastor Freet said, where the Apostle Paul refers to the Christian life using racing as a metaphor: running the race to the get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 New International Version (NIV) “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”


Pastor Freet says, “It’s a metaphor for life. Whatever we’re going to do, do it with all our might, to bring glory to God, who’s given us the might and the ability.”


Crossing the finish line
Forty six miles in, with four more to go, Kennedy admits, “I was really starting to feel fatigued.” Three miles later, he locked onto the encouraging voices of volunteers lining the path, “Just one more mile ...”


“The body is so spent and there’s no energy left and you just keep going,” Kennedy says. At that point, you’re in auto drive he said, and “you’re running from the heart.” Nine hours, 8 minutes and 48 seconds later, he crossed the finish line. He was praying, thanking God for the ability to run the race and another prayer for Maopolski. “Paul was still out there. I prayed for him to stay strong.”
Though he’d developed two small blisters, and had hit “the wall” that runners do, where fatigue and soreness is setting in, Maopolski pressed on. “At that point, you’re really raw. You’re just beat up, both physically and emotionally,” he said. Yet, somewhere in the midst of that all-consuming struggle came a second wind. Maopolski pressed on toward the prize and crossed the finish line at 9 hours, 39 minutes and nine seconds.