But once word got out about "Kennedy's Challenge" even civilians wanted to take part in it, a tradition that lives on today
"As long as my body holds up, you know I'm 51 years old, and I'm sure the joints will wear out some day but as long as physically I can do it I would definitely come back," says Jeff Gish, a JFK 50 Mile Runner.
The inspiration came from the military requirements of the 20th century, 50 miles on foot on 20 hours.
As times has evolved, some runners have taken it one step further completing the race in half the time.
"My fastest time was last year. I did in 9 hours and two minutes," says Gish. "My goal this year to get under 9 hours."
Rain or shine, participants maintain a strict training schedule both mentally and physically.
The race starts in Boonsboro and goes through rigorous tracks, from steep rocky hills on the Appalachian Trail, to the flat land along the C&O Canal.
"This will be my sixth time running the race," says Gish. "There's something about the race that's special I can't describe it, you just kind of get addicted to it."
The original name of the race was the JFK Challenge but after the President's death it was changed to the JFK 50 Mile Memorial.