Other Sports Magazine

2012 – The Last Annual Vol-State Race – How It All Began

By Abichal @Multidays

last annual vol state race 2012Posted on the Ultralist

Date: Fri, 23 Dec 2011 21:05:48 +0000
From: lazarus lake
Subject: berth of the last annual vol state

all this talk and speculation. when did the vol state begin, and why is it the last annual?

i can tell you.
i was there.

in the fall of 1980 it popped into my empty head that it would be a really cool thing to run from alabama to kentucky. it was only 126 miles.

in those days i had not heard of water bottles or fanny packs so, one saturday morning i got dropped off at the alabama line. i had on running shoes & shorts, a pair of scrub pants in case it got cold, a t-shirt, a nylon windbreaker, and a baseball hat. i put some money and my cigarettes in a baggie, & stuck that in the windbreaker's pocket and i was ready to go.

the day passed easily enough. i walked for 5 minutes every half hour, and got drinks and food at stores. there were a couple of 12 mile stretches between stops
but i tanked up real well before starting those the rest of the time it was 8 miles or less.

i reached 64 miles in 12:14 and stopped at a bar to watch a football game… and have a few beers. the few beers became a lot of beers and i hung around after the game was over. i finally hit the road again pretty late. while i was in the bar it had begun to rain.

i had not accounted for the stores all being closed at night. and it was the old saying come to life; "water, water everywhere, and nary a drop to drink." i went 18 miles before finding a soda machine & getting a 20 oz soda. 6 more miles to reach lebanon & find someplace open to get food.

by then my poor wet feet were getting nasty blisters and i wasnt having much fun being wet & cold. the rain had begun to taper off when i stopped at 93 miles & called for a ride. my feet were wrecked and i couldnt see doing 33 more miles on them. i would just try again another day.

the tally: 93 miles in about 18 hours of running and 6 hours in a bar.

when i was telling other people about the fun, they kept saying; "tell me when you do it again, i want to go!" so i decided, hell we ought to make it a race. i did decide to move the time to midsummer. i didnt want to go through another night being that cold. we raced from alabama to kentucky several years before i got bored with that run. besides, it was too short and could be done in only 1 day. so we changed the race to go from knoxville to nashville (207 miles) and called it the vol-state road race. as a tribute to all the "first annual" races that cropped up, we decided to name it the "last annual"

after a couple of years going knoxville to nashville, we started changing the course regularly to avoid boredom. we did cumberland gap to nashville, cumberland gap to lookout mountain, we traced the trail of tears from north georgia to kentucky on a course with multiple ferrys we ran from alabama to illinois. going into the early 1990s trail running became the only "cool" thing to do and the old vol-state began to shrivel up. the last year it was held, dirt & i were the only ones to make the 230 mile trip from memphis to nashville. what a year, including a 10 hour overnight stretch without water in the midst of the hottest hot spell of the century. we saw a bank sign reading 113 on the way into hashville, altho it was only officially something like 109.

since no one else was running, i figured we could just do out journey runs as solo runs again. periodically someone would encourage the revival of the vol state but it wasnt until somewhere around 2000 that we had enough requests to go ahead and do it. after a couple or three runs from dorena landing missouri to monteagle (265 miles) we went ahead and extended it to castle rock and 314 miles. there has been one course alteration since then, when a stretch of road in west tennesse got too busy for runners & crews but that has been essentially the race for the reborn "last annual" vol-state road race.

there is no real race director, altho carl & i, and various runners make contributions to helping the whole thing come off. john does maps and such, david maintains a mailing list, don has been providing the american flags that serve as race bibs, and so on and so forth.

it is a race put on entirely by the entrants. the entrants make the rules, such rules as there are. the most important one… no pacers. the great runners of the past blazed the path, and they did it on their own, like men. the runners of today owe them doing it the right way and not disgracing their memory, and the race.

there is no fee, no disclaimer, just 500 kilometers of open road. and the adventure of a lifetime… if you have what it takes to do it.

a couple of years ago, there was a big article in the shelbyville paper about a guy who was going to be the first person ever to run from alabama to kentucky on us 231… the old vol state route of the 1980's. the history of all those great races had been forgotten.

i talked to him later, and he was a nice guy… and quite surprised to find out all that had taken place on his route before he was born.

anyway, if you want to run, you can run. this year looks like we will have a huge field. but it will take 100 or more to fill the ferry, and if that happens we will just go to wave starts.

it all starts with the "last supper" on wdnesday night. all the runners are there, sometimes special visitors form the past and all the stories accumulated in 3 decades are told and retold.

thursday morning we board the ferry. and start living the stories that will be told and retold for years to come.


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