Earlier this morning, the leaders in Laz Lake’s Last Annual Vol State 500K ultramarathon in Tennessee were 420K in, and the leader, defending champion and course record-holder Greg Armstrong, is running–believe it or not–in Teva sandals.
— Amelia Boone (@ameliaboone) July 14, 2019
“If you know me, you know I basically live in Tevas,” Armstrong writes on the Run4Water website, a Tennessee-based not-for-profit devoted to helping provide clean drinking water in South America, Africa and Haiti. He writes of visiting a leper colony in Africa and realizing Tevas would be great for people with leprosy, who have foot and leg deformities, because they are easily adjustable and easy to put on and take off. He was able to get the company to donate 70 pairs.
Armstrong posted the following on his Facebook page on March 4: “I’m often asked, why do you run in sandals? Answer: This pair carried me to a 24 hour PR of 155.10 miles and have a total of 1,500 miles so far. They cost me $55; that’s 3.6 cents per mile!
Unfortunately, this is my last pair of TEVA Tanzas; they are discontinued. TEVA, if you are listening, please bring the TEVA Tanza back.”
Vol State crosses the state of Tennessee on the diagonal from northwest to southeast, mainly on roads–sometimes on highways with no shoulder. (It actually starts in Dorena Landing, Missouri and ends in Castle Rock, Georgia.) Whether they run or walk, runners must cover 50.24K per day to finish in the allotted 10 days. Pacers are not allowed, and there are no aid stations or official volunteers, though runners may be supported by a crew if they wish. Local individuals and organizations along the route, known as angels, have been known to offer up shade, water, and shelter, leaving chairs, sun umbrellas and coolers filled with bottles of water for the runners and walkers.
What makes #VS500k fun? In addition to the usual – weather, aggressive dogs, cars deliberately trying to hit the runners – one runner has reported seeing a mountain lion.
— Keith (@keithdunn) July 14, 2019
Armstrong is running uncrewed (known in Vol State lingo as “screwed”) for the first time, chasing the screwed course record of 95.25 hours (about four days and nights).
Johan Steene of Sweden, a two-time past uncrewed winner and uncrewed course record-holder, was 13 miles (about 21K) behind Armstrong this morning. Alan Abbs and his wife, Bev Anderson-Abbs (who is Canadian), were in third position (though Anderson-Abbs is on course for the female uncrewed win and course record, in her first Vol State race). Anderson-Abbs was the last woman to complete a Fun Run at the Barkley Marathons, back in 2013.
UPDATE July 17: Armstrong did indeed win, finishing in 3:14:11:31, a new “screwed” course record. Johan Steene held the previous screwed CR at 3:23:15:52. Steene finished second, in 3:22:07:19, running crewed. Terry Bonnett was the first Canadian male to finish, in 11th place, in 5:17:40:06. Casey Thivierge was second Canadian male, in 15th place, in 5:23:11:01.