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Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee has its first out-and-back finisher

The virtual race has an out-and-back option for runners who want to run an extra 1,000K, and John Sharp finished the run after just 27 days

Photo by: Google Maps

After just 27 days of racing, U.S. participant John Sharp is the first official finisher of the out-and-back version of the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1,000K (GVRAT). The race was a wild idea from Laz Lake, but that didn’t stop over 19,500 people from signing up for the run. As if running the route that’s a little over 1,000K “across Tennessee” (there’s a map to show runners’ virtual progress) wasn’t enough, runners could choose to make the race an out-and-back run, doubling up for over 2,000K. The race started on May 1, and runners have until August 31 to complete the 1,000K or 2,000K events.

Mystery cookie

On the GVRAT results lists, the top results on both the 1,000K and 2,000K pages are occupied by a participant who goes by the alias Gingerbread Man, but this mystery runner’s real identity is unknown. Gingerbread Man finished the first 1,000K on May 11, a day ahead of Sharp and Canadian finisher Terri Biloski. The cookie runner finished his run back through Tennessee on May 27, just ahead of Sharp, who sits in second place on the results list and is the top “non-cookie” finisher of the double GVRAT. Biloski is in fourth place overall and she is the top woman, with just over 300K to go before finishing the out-and-back route.

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Longtime ultrarunner

Sharp, 42, is from Texas, and he has been competing in ultramarathons for over a decade. In February, before the racing season was put on hold due to COVID-19, Sharp won a 100K race in Selma, Texas. Before that, in late 2019, he won a 192-mile race, this time in Hallettsville, Texas. In years past, Sharp has competed in several of Lake’s other races, including the Barkley Fall Classic on five occasions (his best finish was 14th place in the 50K in 2017), the 500K Vol State race in 2015 (he finished 22nd) and the four times at Big’s Backyard Ultra (he came in fourth in 2016).

Runners with Laz Lake before the start of Vol State in 2018

Sharp’s run

The GVRAT route is specifically 1021.68K, and the out-and-back is double that, for a total distance of 2043.36K. For the first half of the race, which he finished in 12 days, Sharp ran a daily average of a little over 85K. It took him 15 days to make the return trip, meaning he averaged about 68K on the way back. Over the course of the 2043K run and 27 days, he ran an average of 75K. For anyone interested in running the GVRAT who hasn’t signed up yet, registration is open until August 1.