Editor's note: This is the final story in a five-part series about some of the people who will compete today in the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon in Washington County.
Brian Leach is returning to his roots for a dose of punishment.
The 1988 graduate of St. Maria Goretti High School, who lives in Huntington Beach, Calif., was to arrive in Hagerstown a day before attempting to complete his first JFK 50 Mile.
"It's something I've wanted to do for a couple of years," Leach said in a telephone interview. "I grew up there. If you're getting into ultra (marathons), it's one of the premier ultras in the country."
The JFK 50 Mile takes participants from Boonsboro to Williamsport along paved roads, the Appalachian Trail and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath.
Leach, 42, has competed in nine marathons and three ultramarathons, including the American River 50 in Sacramento, Calif.
He said he has been training for the JFK 50 Mile since June on a nine-mile trail at El Morro State Park near his home. He said he chose the trail because its terrain is similar to the rocky footing along the Appalachian Trail, which covers about a dozen miles of the JFK 50 Mile course.
Ultramarathons require a strong mind as well as a strong body, Leach said. Sometimes when he runs, he thinks about a song or a "gazillion other things" to take his mind off the race, but he said he will rely on talking to other racers today to help numb the pain.
"It's going to be hard, absolutely," Leach said. "It's going to hurt. There's no way around the hurt. Everything past 30 (miles) becomes a mental challenge more than anything else."
Leach said he wants to finish the race in less than 10 hours. To help stay nourished, he plans to eat boiled potatoes and power gels up to the 30-mile point, then switch to soups and sugars.
Leach said he hated to run in high school, but his soccer coach made the team do it to stay in shape. He said he resumed running in his early 30s when his weight reached 215 pounds.
"I was 33 and looked at myself and said, 'Wow,'" Leach said.
Despite the arduous course ahead of him, Leach said he's confident that his training will get him through the race. He said he is looking forward to the natural high that he gets after finishing a long run.
"I'm ready. I had great training," Leach said. "If anything goes wrong, it will be because of catastrophic injury or something mentally. I can't wait. You just feel the whole thing building around you."
Leach said he also is eagerly anticipating having his parents, Brian and Connie, work on his crew during the race.
"I want to be sure the people who are so supportive know that I appreciate everything they do for me," he said. "I'm very lucky."
Coming Sunday: Complete race coverage and a full list of finishers.
Live from the finish line
Watch live video from the finish line Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. at www.herald-mail.com.
The Leach file
Name: Brian Leach
Occupation: Owns an IT company in Southern California
Number of JFK finishes: First attempt
The JFK in one word: "Epic"