Jacki Elam

Jacki Elam stands with her sons Cooper, left, and Baker, right, after she completed the 50 mile JFK Challenge Saturday.

ASHLAND Jacki Elam spent her Saturday walking around Ashland. It wasn’t a short, casual walk. She was completing the 50 mile JFK challenge to honor veterans.

“I thought it was a really cool way to honor our military veterans,” said Elam. “They did so much for us and I work with them every day, just to hear them on the phone, I just thought it was a cool way to honor them.”

Elam works for a company that provides services for veterans and said she wanted to complete the challenge in their honor after seeing her husband’s friend do it last year.

She was supposed to complete the challenge last year, but a sprained ankle from a rough fall kept her sidelined. However, she picked training back up this spring.

Elam is an avid walker and has always walked at least 3 to 5 miles each day. She began walking to the Ohio River from her home, adding miles to her regular walks. Five became eight, eight became 12 and 12 pushed to 18.

“My goal was to do 20-plus at least twice before I did the big one,” said Elam.

Two weeks prior to her push for 50 miles, she completed her first goal of more than 20 twice. Then Saturday morning at 5:30 a.m. she began the walk from her neighborhood to the Ohio River.

She stopped by a friend’s place, Young Signs, then headed on to the river for a few minutes of meditation before finishing out her long trek around town.

Elam took one break to sit down for about 10 minutes in Central Park. Other than those few minutes, she was on the move for 16 hours and 46 seconds.

The JFK Challenge was originally for military members to show physical fitness, but many regular citizens took the challenge during John F. Kennedy’s presidency and beyond. The challenge is 50 miles in 20 hours.

“Crushed it!” said Elam.

Elam had four hours to spare and made good time. The walk didn’t come without challenges. At the halfway point, her husband joined her for a few miles.

“We got caught in a major thunderstorm and we had to duck into the liquor store,” Elam shared. “So I’m walking up and down the isles of this liquor store.”

Elam said her feet and shoes got soaked “and that was my down fall.”

Her husband had to make his way home and bring back dry shoes. The friction of continuing to walk caused blood blisters on Elam’s feet.

“But we did it! We did it, we did it!” she proudly said.

Elam stopped at KFC during her training and came back through to let them know how things were going and grab a bite to eat. She also took note of shops and businesses downtown she hadn’t been in before.

Pretty and Poised caught her eye and she already went back to purchase a gift for a family member. Others are on her list to revisit.

She also took stops to see her friends at Young Signs, who surprised her with signs along the road as she made her way home after completing the challenge.

Elam was prepared for the journey, she had her music and portable charger to keep her going and made sure local law enforcement knew what was happening.

“We stopped by on the way into town and took the police department two-dozen donuts so they’d have my back all day and know I wasn’t homeless. I would just be walking all day,” said Elam.

The majority of the miles were walked alone, save for the few when her husband joined her, and her two youngest sons helped her make it through the final five miles.

“With like 2 miles left to go, me and my boys went (to the Ohio River) and I don’t know how, we just finished it jogging and resting, jogging and resting,” recalled Elam.

She never gave up, though she thought about it around mile 31 with wet shoes and sore feet, but she didn’t take it. Elam conquered the challenge and would do it again.

It’s an accomplishment she is proud of and she has already set new goals and looking for more.

“I’ve already made a goal. I turned 55 (Tuesday) and that was my way of kicking 55’s butt, but my new goal is 60 when I turn 60,” Elam said.

She won’t be waiting for 60 for more long-distance treks. Elam is researching long-distance hikes in the area. No plans are made yet, she’s still resting and recovering from her 50 miles around town, but she’s ready for new adventures.

(606) 326-2652 |


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