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Last Annual Vol State gets underway, without Laz

Ten-day ultramarathon in the Tennessee heat an irresistible draw for some

Posted by Seth Dortch on Thursday, July 12, 2018

Last Annual Vol State, the 505K road ultramarathon that traverses the state of Tennessee from northwest to southeast over a 10-day period, got underway today. The runners, who must average 50K per day in order to finish within the time limit, cheered as they filed off the ferry and began the race. 

RELATED: Legally blind Ontario woman to run Tennessee ultra–unguided

The race has a loyal following, partly because it is directed by the same man who directs the Barkley Marathons, the 100-miler in Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park that is infamously difficult and has seen few finishers in its 30+ year history.


Two Ontario residents that we know of (though possibly more) are participating in this year’s Vol State: Rhonda-Marie Parke, a legally blind ultrarunner from Kitchener, Ont. who is running without a guide, to bring awareness to the daily realities for the differently-abled. (She has a crew of one who will meet up with her a couple of times a day.)

And Tim the Grim Reaper, familiar to anyone who has run Hamilton’s Around the Bay 30K. The Reaper appears in costume, every year, along the final stretch of the race, beside the cemetery, to cheerfully insult runners and try to lure them to their eternal rest.

Tennessee tends to be a little on the warm side in July. Thankfully, the race has a long history, and locals are welcoming, with offers of cold drinks and bathrooms. 

Race director Lazarus Lake is not around this year. Lake (affectionately known as Laz) is on an ultramarathon of his very own, walking across America. He started on May 10 in Rhode Island, and has been following Route 20. Today is day 64, and Laz walked 25 miles through the Loess Hills of Missouri. You can follow his progress (and read his thoughts and observations) here