“Honey, what shall we do this week?” “How about walking 300 miles across Tennessee!”

Okay, here’s the deal.

You park your car near beautiful Sand Mountain, Georgia and board a free bus for a 314-mile ride along some of Tennessee’s most scenic roads. At the end of the ride, you get off the bus in Missouri, just across the Mississippi River from Kentucky, near the northwest corner of Tennessee—and you walk back to your car!

On July 9, 73 “racers” will board buses, and on the next day, begin that walk back.

Called the “Last Annual Vol-State Road Race,” the 314-mile (500k) run/walk event officially begins Thursday morning (July 10, 2014, 7:30 am CDT)) with a ferry ride across the Mississippi River to Kentucky, and finishes at “The Rock” high atop Sand Mountain in northeast Georgia. They have ten days to complete the trek (until July 20).

Although it is called “The Last Annual Vol-State Road Race,” it is neither “the last” nor really a race. According to one source, it has been “run” continuously since 1981.

Each Vol-Stater must make his or her way on foot, along highways and back roads, from one small town to the next, over hills and across rivers, up mountains and down long valleys, all the while accounting for all of the most basic needs: “What will I eat?” “When will I find water?” “Where will I sleep?”

There are three groups of competitors:

1. Racers with a support crew (“crewed”): They have a support team with a van or motorhome that accompanies them. The support team provides the runner with water, food, and a place to rest when needed. One advantage for a crewed runners is that they do not have to carry multiple bottles of water, snacks, rain gear, etc.

2. Uncrewed racers (listed as “screwed” on the enrollment form): These are individual racers that may have a spouse or friend tracking along with them in a vehicle, but basically, they are “on their own.” They have to carry everything they need, or figure out how to get what they need along the way.

3. Relay teams: These are groups of four or five runners who divide the route into individual segments.

Relay teams do not compete against individual runners, but all individual runners, crewed and “screwed,” compete head-to-head.

For the third year, Harry and Ollie’s Market and Café in Pelham is proud to support the Vol-Staters as they make their way along US Route 41 from Manchester to Monteagle. We will have a shelter set up for shade, free ice cold water, and a hose for those who want to cool off. There is a small camper available for racers who want to nap in a real bed for a few hours; a tub and shower are also available. We plan to have these facilities will be available 24 hours ad day during the race, beginning Monday July 14. During the day, hot meals, hamburgers, eggs fixed to order, sandwiches, etc. will be available.

Marcia who has run previous races, stopped here for a break last year. She and her husband John, who will also be a competitor this year, stopped in the store on their way to this year’s pre-race runners’ meeting. They live near Fresno, California. That means they drove 2000 miles to run more than 300 miles on foot!

When asked “Why?” both Marcia and John found it difficult to express exactly what motivated them. It seems they “enjoy it”—especially the planning and preparation, the personal challenge to test themselves, and they agreed that they look forward to the camaraderie with the other racers, many of whom the now know.

When it comes to finding a place to rest, some plan ahead, while others simply pick the best spot when they need to stop. Last year, competitors told us they slept on church steps or under a waterproof cover in a ditch. Marcia described how she found a green utility box mounted on a concrete slab. There was just enough room on the concrete for her to lie down and sleep for a couple of hours. Marcia prefers to get a couple hours of sleep around midnight then continue about two in the morning while the air is cooler and traffic is lighter.

Asked about hazards along the route, Marcia points to a scar on her leg where she was bitten by a dog. Still, the greatest hazard is drivers who do not use caution. She was “brushed” by a car last year; she was not hurt, but the car did come in contact with her.

Friday, they will get on those buses that will trace the race route in reverse so all competitors can see the route. Brad, another competitor who also stopped in, said the bus ride was really very helpful, allowing racers to see the course and do some planning.

Based on past races, the fastest competitors will complete the race in less than four days. While, like last year, some competitors may finish with only hours to spare.

According to the online description, “The Vol-State is not just another ultramarathon. It is much more than that. The Vol-State is a journey, an adventure, and an exploration of innerspace.”

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2 Responses to “Honey, what shall we do this week?” “How about walking 300 miles across Tennessee!”

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