If you thought the Quarantine Backyard Ultra was a long race, you won’t believe the run that Laz Lake, race director of the Barkley Marathons, has planned for the summer. The Great Virtual Road Race Across Tennessee is, as the name suggests, a virtual run, and it will take place from May 1 until August 31. Why such a long window to complete the race? Because it’s a 1,000K run that covers the entire state of Tennessee. Runners have four months to tackle this behemoth of a race, and if they finish with enough time to spare, they can go for the out-and-back route and complete an additional 1,000K.
The (virtual) route
The route (which is actually 1,021.68K), starts near the southwest tip of Tennessee and ends at the northeast state border. Any time after May 1, runners can virtually start their runs near Anthonyville, Arkansas, where the route begins. From there, the course follows the Mississippi River into Tennessee, through Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga, until the Tennessee-Virginia border, over 1,000K later.
Runners won’t physically run this route, of course. Instead, they’ll run wherever they are in the world and upload their runs to the race website, where they’ll be able to see their progress as they virtually make their way across Tennessee.
An ultramarathon of this design is nothing new for Lake. He is best known for the Barkley Marathons, but he’s race director for several other ultras, including Vol State, a 10-day, 500K race directed by Lake that takes place in July each year. Like his new virtual ultra, the Vol State takes runners across the state of Tennessee, starting in the northwest and moving southeast into Georgia. He also has another cross-Tennessee race scheduled for this year: the inaugural Last Annual Heart of the South Road Race. The first running of the over-500K race is set for June 18, and although it has yet to be cancelled or postponed, one of those options might end up being the case soon due to COVID-19.
Big’s Backyard Ultra, another of Lake’s events, follows a last-runner-standing format that normally takes place in October. Runners have an hour to cover a 6.4K loop. When they get back, they can rest until the hour is up, and then they do it again. The last runner standing wins. In 2019, Maggie Guterl won the event, covering 60 laps for a total of 402.3K.
Lake doesn’t just come up with insane ultras for other people to complete. He takes on ultra challenges of his own. In 2018, he walked a total of 5,100 kilometres from the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. to the Pacific Coast in 126 days 11 hours 41 minutes and 57 seconds. He’s also suggested he may do another cross-country walk in 2021.
How to finish
The race was only just announced, but it already has over 700 participants signed up. These runners (and the many more who are sure to register before the May 1 start) will have to average just over 8K per day from the start until the August 31 finish. All starters will receive a race t-shirt and everyone who finishes will get a medal. The runners who successfully complete the out-and-back route will receive a “double-crossing medal.”