The Fellowship of Suffering – Introduction and Prelude

A Mind Running Amok
Last Annual Vol State Road Race – Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jeff’s Introduction

In a recent blog you learned about the Last Annual Vol State Road Race. The race has been completed, and the racers are recovering nicely. 64 racers started, 45 finished. One competitor, Brand Compton kept a record of his race as he went along, using his rest stops to update his log. He has kindly provided me a copy of his record and many photos along the way.

This was his second time in this race, and his goal was to improve his time. His account is well written and gives some real insight into taking on a 314-mile challenge. Brad finished 14th in 5 days, 22 hours, 56 minutes, 44 seconds.

Approximately 20 racers stopped at Harry and Ollie’s for a rest stop. We enjoyed listening to their adventures—when they could stop and talk. And we admire everyone who started for having the courage to take on the challenge.

Brad’s account spans his entire five days, so it is broken into parts and the parts will be posted every day or two. Each part is a day in Brad’s journey. If you want to directly to Brad’s blog spot to read the entire article, go to:

Come take a walk with Brad.


Brad’s Introduction

Brad Compton preparing for the start of the race.

Brad Compton preparing for the start of the race.

I have read that record producers hate producing a band’s second album. The songs tend to be written more hurriedly, with less of the care and passion that went into the greatness of those on the first album. The band often gets a lesson in humility, as sales are poor, and radio play hard to come by. I don’t want this Vol State to end up like a second album, but I fear the possibility.

I have run more miles in preparation for this year’s Vol State than I ran last year, and I’ve run a 100-miler just a few weeks ago. Still, I did not run a set of 30-mile days like last year; life just seemed to get in the way. My feet picked up some damage during the 100-miler, and though there is no discomfort, there are visible signs that the healing is not yet complete. My planning, my pre-race journaling, and my obsessing are all at a much lower level, replaced by strategizing on how to run the course in less than 5 days, or even 4 days.

I have voiced my fears to the Vol State list, and among the replies is one from Stu:

“Brad it is definitely much easier on subsequent attempts.
“The demons don’t hop up and bite you.
“You know what to expect.
The sense of hurry up is reduced…and this is a race where the less you hurry the faster you go.
“On the first day, take care of blisters before they get a good start.

“This is a sort of strange family get together, not a race. It is a strange agreed upon reality.
“The only battle is the next step. The solution is to take it–couple million of them and you get to the rock.
“Don’t talk yourself through anything…talk to the people you meet and run with the people you meet. They wish they were you. When you talk to them, it will solve any problems you have.
“Be here now is good advice. Being here now with fellow runners is about as good as it gets.”

The man would prove to be a prophet…



Nearly everyone will suffer this year. Many will find the temps in the mid-90’s too much to bear. Many, like me, will suffer blisters that will slow them considerably. One will suffer a dog attack that will lead to medical treatment. Others enter the race not feeling entirely healthy, a less than ideal way to start a 314-mile trek across Tennessee. Even Laz and Carl [the race organizers] will suffer, enduring 50° temps during the their final nights at the rock, struggling to keep warm as they wait for runners to finish. Each will battle something, even if it’s only the self-doubt or ever-threatening presence of Oprah looming behind them, but most will succeed. Many of those that don’t will be back to fight another day. This year, much more than last, the suffering is very real, very physical, yet the courage to keep moving towards the goal is never more evident than when the pain is at its greatest. This is my story, but my story pales compared to others, and even my story, such as it is, would not exist if it were not for the fellowship of fellow runners that participated in this year’s Last Annual Vol State Road Race.

My buddy John Fegy’s has had to bow out so he can devote his time to finishing his dissertation, so I have a motel room to myself the night before we board the ferry. Had he been there, I might be tapping his brain on how to best tape a foot before a race. I’ve never done it before, never felt the need, but I’ve got this nagging sense that the time has come. Unfortunately, I have neither the tape nor the confidence to attempt it now.

I head down to the lobby and find a couple of runners hanging out. I enjoy hearing Johan talk about his races and the people he has met. He has some impressive success in his own country (Sweden) at the 48-hour and 24-hour level and is a favorite to win this event. He is also an incredibly nice guy; positive and personable with a great sense of humor.

I return to my room and repack my pack. I opted to buy a bigger pack this year, just so I wouldn’t have much stuff falling off the bungee straps on the back and giving me grief. Unfortunately, having more room has led to me bringing more stuff, including a portable USB charger that weighs more than I had imagined it could.

Morning comes and I am one of the first down to the lobby for breakfast. I eat well, trying not to overdo it, and trying not to drink too much coffee. After eating, I gather my things and check out of my room, heading outside out of the air-conditioning and sitting in the shade. Laz has this roll of blue kinesio tape [A type of thin, elastic cotton tape that stretches up to 140% of its original length. Good for repairing blisters.] he is trying to give away, and though I have no idea where I’m going to put it, I take it off his hands. Jeff McGonnell comes over and chats, and shows me a feature of my new backpack that I didn’t know existed: more places to put stuff! These will come in handy during the race.

Alex Morton and Jeff McGonnell before the race. Ferry in Background.

Alex Morton and Jeff McGonnell before the race. Ferry in Background.

I know that randomness exists, and that coincidences occur, but when too many random events happen that can have a profound impact on something important in my life, I tend to think that there is something/Someone greater moving behind the scenes. Such is how I felt about the free gift of tape and Jeff happening by to show me the extra storage capacity of UD PB backpack. Tuesday night, after the Chinese buffet, John Sands (who I shared a room with that night) and I attended Marcia’s blister clinic, and though I couldn’t imagine actually using any of the information she shared and demonstrated, I was at least introduced to kinesio tape, second skin, and tincture of benzoin. I would learn much more about them during the race, and by Hillsboro, even know how to use them!

We load the bus and head towards the ferry. The drive goes quickly, chatting with Diane Taylor and Chris Knodel. Chris is ex-military and presently a personal coach, and he is no stranger to athletic events that would be beyond my confidence level. I enjoy listening to stories of his adventures. Diane is always a joy; her light-heartedness and love for Vol State is contagious. I approach the ferry with a considerably lighter heart.

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3 Responses to The Fellowship of Suffering – Introduction and Prelude

  1. Pingback: Renaissance Musings Table of Contents | Renaissance Musings

  2. Loved this guest blog, thank you

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