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Canadian ultrarunner wins Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee

Calgary's Varden Morris finished the 1,000K run in 10 days

Photo by: Facebook/Varden Morris

The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee has only been running for 10 days, but it already has its first finisher. Calgary’s Varden Morris completed the roughly 1,000K race in just over a week, averaging an impressive 103K per day since the event kicked off on May 1. Matt Shepard of Valleyview, Alta., is currently in second place, with just over 800K complete. 

The GVRAT

Laz Lake created the GVRAT in 2020 at around the same time many races started going virtual. Lake, who is best known as the race director of the Barkley Marathons, wasn’t going to organize a quick virtual 5K or 10K, though, and he decided to take runners across his home state in a 1,000K ultramarathon. This year, just like in 2020, the race started on May 1, and participants have until August 31 to complete the route. They upload their runs or walks to the event website, which tracks every runner’s progress and lists the leaderboard. 

The GVRAT follows a virtual route from one end of Tennessee to the other. Photo: Google Maps

This year, around 5,000 people have signed up, although registration is still open for anyone interested in jumping into the ultra challenge. For people who think 1,000K is a bit too short, there’s an out-and-back race option, which tops out at a bit above 2,000K. 

RELATED: Canadians lead the way in 1,000K Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee

Morris’s win 

Morris was relentless in his 10 days of racing, and he went for multiple runs each day to rocket himself up the leaderboard and toward the win. He kicked the challenge off on May 1 with a 112K day, followed by a 119K total on Day 2. From there, he continued his attack, distancing himself from the rest of the field every day. Throughout his 10 days of running, Morris ran under 100K only twice. 

As he wrote on the GVRAT Facebook page, the race was 70 per cent mental for him and 30 per cent physical. “It has been a very humbling experience for me from day #1 through day #10,” Morris wrote. “Every single run came with its own set of challenges that resulted in me questioning God if this is possible and if I will be able to complete it.” He said his wife and daughter played big roles in his win, helping him throughout the race by preparing meals for him and showing him moral support. 

The race is now on for second place, although Shepard appears to have a pretty good hold on it with his 800K total. In third is another Canadian, Crissy Parsons, who leads the women’s field with about 650K run. Like the gap between Parsons and Shepard, the distance from Parsons to the fourth-place runner is quite far, and as long as she holds steady in the coming days, she will likely finish third and complete a Canadian sweep of the podium.

For full results from the GVRAT, click here.  

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