Laz Lake’s Tennessee ultra Last Annual Vol State, which crosses 500K of Tennessee from northwest to southeast, has begun, and there are a few notable participants this year, including five Canadians.

To be accurate, the race actually starts in Missouri and ends in Georgia, but passes through Tennessee. Things got off to a slightly shaky start when the buses that were to carry runners to the start were 11 hours late. But at least Laz is present this year. (Last year he was on his epic walk across America.)

RELATED: Can’t get into the Barkley? Consider another Laz Lake ultra

Runners must maintain a pace of 50.24K per day to finish in the allotted 10 days. Pacers are not allowed, and there are no aid stations and no official volunteers, though runners may be supported by a crew if they wish. Locals along the route, known as angels, generously offer shade, water, and shelter, though there are also frequent reports of stray and unleashed dogs and other wildlife. The name of the race is a reference to Volunteer State, a moniker Tennessee earned for the valour of its volunteer soldiers during the War of 1812.

Casey Thivierge of Belle River, Ont. is a big fan of Laz’s races, finishing 26th at Big’s Backyard Ultra last year, with 108.3 miles (174K). Thivierge was a member of the teams that set three FKT’s on Ontario trails last year. This is his first time at Vol State.

Bev Anderson-Abbs, is originally from Alberta but now lives in Sacramento, California. Her husband, Alan Abbs, is also racing. Alan is a former unaided course record-holder. (This race distinguishes between crewed and “screwed”–i.e. unaided–runners.)

Anderson-Abbs holds the distinction of being the last woman to complete a Fun Run at the Barkley Marathons, back in 2013. This is her first time racing Vol State.

The other Canadians we’ve identified are Eric Lawrie and Terry Bonnett of Ontario (the only veteran of this race, finishing in 22nd place last year) and Lisa Wong of BC.

RELATED: Blind Canadian runner finishes 500K Vol State ultra strong, unguided

Another competitors to note is Johan Steene of Sweden, who has multiple unaided wins and course records. He also won Big’s Backyard Ultra in 2018 and completed a Fun Run (three loops) at this year’s Barkley Marathons. Steene is racing Vol State crewed for the first time. Laz refers to him as “perhaps the top multi-day runner in the world right now.”

Vol State starters Casey Thivierge and Eric Lawrie at 20 miles. Photo: Laz Lake

For race updates, follow #VS500K on Twitter, or track your runner here.

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