Canadian Bev Anderson-Abbs, 55, finished the 314-mile (505K) Last Annual Vol State ultra yesterday in third place overall, in 4:07:17:55, a new women’s uncrewed (screwed, in Vol State lingo) course record. Though it was her first time competing at this race, Anderson-Abbs is an accomplished ultrarunner with a long resume and several recent 2nd-place finishes in 50K races.
Anderson-Abbs’ new record was more than five hours faster than the previous women’s screwed record of 4:12:48:04, set by Sue Scholl in 2014. Anderson-Abbs ran with her husband, Alan Abbs, a two-time “screwed” winner whose best time, going into the race, was 4:11:31:27 (also the screwed record in 2013). Abbs finished fourth overall this year, 24 seconds behind his wife.
Anderson-Abbs says her expectations of the race were based on her husband’s first experience running it back in 2013, when there were no angels offering support yet. “He came back having scrounged half-full water bottles from construction sites and bags of potatoes chips from trash cans,” she relates.
“Over the years so many people along the course have found out about it and have fallen in love with the whole event, especially in the first half … there are coolers all over the place with water, snacks, chairs set up, and I thought, this is not like what I expected. There were very few places where you really had to think about what you needed to make it to the next place where you could get water or food. For the most part you could just hop from cooler to cooler. Most towns we went through we were hitting at a good times–stores were still open or were just opening. So it seemed easier than I expected in that aspect, but it’s still 314 miles, and there’s nothing easy about that. One comment I put on Facebook: we’re picking this off one town at a time. That’s really what you have to think about.”
The race was won by Greg Armstrong in a new screwed course record of 3:14:11:31. Johan Steene (who held the previous screwed course record, at 3:23:15:52) finished second, in 3:22:07:19, running with a crew this year.
Anderson-Abbs is a former member of the Canadian ultrarunning team, and the last woman to achieve a Fun Run at the Barkley Marathons (in 2013), which is also directed by Laz Lake.
Last Annual Vol State crosses the state of Tennessee on the diagonal from northwest to southeast, mainly on roads–sometimes on highways with no shoulder. (It actually starts in Dorena Landing, Missouri and ends in Castle Rock, Georgia.) Whether they run or walk, runners must cover 50.24K per day to finish in the allotted 10 days. Pacers are not allowed, and there are no aid stations or official volunteers, though runners may be supported by a crew if they wish. Local individuals and organizations along the route, known as angels, have been known to offer up shade, water, and shelter, leaving chairs, sun umbrellas and coolers filled with bottles of water for the runners and walkers.
The race started July 11 and has a 10-day cutoff. Canadians Terry Bonnett, Casey Thivierge, Eric Lawrie and Lisa Wong are still on the course, and are not among the 19 who have dropped out.