The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 2020

Im not really a fan of virtual racing, I enjoy the atmosphere of an event and run races for that feeling. medals are great too, but running virtual events to get a medal has never grabbed my attention. That was until 2020 happened. COVID-19 has a lot to answer for!!

With the impact of cancellations and postponements of events on my 2020 running plans I started to think 2020 was going to be a forgettable year for running achievements.

Then in my Facebook feed I saw an advert for Runners World, referencing virtual event being hosted by Lazarus Lake. It was a virtual event to travel the distance across Tennessee, coming in around 635 miles or about 1021 Km. Of course in true Laz style it was called a 1000Km virtual event !!

Now I like running, you might have noticed. But that sort of distance is a bit bonkers. I was hitting the 200 miles a month or so level when I saw the advert, but this was not normal for me. More 150 miles a month is my level, but the lockdown was doing funny things to my running distances. And maybe was fogging my mind – so of course I signed up. When I then started reading, I saw that this wasn’t just a 635 mile event. It was an endless event, meaning there was the option of reaching the finish, and then returning – 1270 miles. OK you had 4 months to finish it but seriously Nick, that’s ridiculous. So of course I immediately set my personal target of reaching the finish after 2 of the 4 months, giving me a realistic chance of reaching the start line again. What had I done!!

Bring on the miles

So then the race starts, the miles begin and I. have to lay down 10.3 miles on average every day for. 2 months to make this initial finish line goal.

My Stats:

Time elapsed2966 minutes2809 minutes
Number of activities3829
Elevation gain3,053 m3,123. m

Lockdown limitations

I started the race on the treadmill, lockdown still in force meaning that getting out was something I wasn’t;t comfortable on too much unless I could be confident of being out in the middle of nowhere. As lockdown restrictions began to lift I managed to build more time out in my comfortable place. The trails around South Oxfordshire, UK. And where possible out on the Ridgeway National Trail, Home of the Race To The Stones Ultra.

During May and June I simply had to dig deep. Achieving mileage like never before. I have been lucky to remain injury free, and with lockdown and working life in particular changing I was able to find more time to run, when normally I would be on a train travelling to work. I know what I prefer!!

I reached 20 June in a good place, but wasn’t able to run that weekend, that left me 115 miles to get in 9 days. So I decided (yes another crazy idea) to run the final full week as a 100 mile week. I had only ever hit 78 miles a couple of times so this was another crazy decision so late in June. But if I didn’t I felt achieving my 30 June target was lost.

100 mile week

This week was the hardest week.

I planned 15, 15, 15, 10, 10, 10, 25 miles giving me no rest day. But it was hard. The first 3 days went OK, with the two day weekend break I was fresh and energised. When I hit Thursday though I struggled. An evening run and I only managed 8 and a bit miles, that tied with being a little short earlier in the week (which was me being lazy) left me needing the full marathon distance come Sunday. No sweat, knocked out a few recently – but not at the end of a week where I had already run 73+ miles!!

Needless to say I got to the 29 June needing 15 miles to close out the job. I took the 29th as a rest and took the finish line on the 30th. I’m relieved to have achieved it and I have now learnt my first buckle – something I’m really excited about!

Within 24 hours I received an email from Laz giving me the link to sign up for the return journey. Well, rude not to, isn’t it?

Running this as I did taught me a lot. I have the ability to push hard, I can endure high mileage and stay committed to a cause, even when it is virtual event. I learnt the importance of treating recovery with respect and being more active in that phase of my running. I also learnt that pace is important to control, I felt it on days after I had run hard, and in they event that wasn’t required, that was annoying but I learnt the pace that works well for me to do my best, but also be able to go on and on.

Most. of all I learnt that there are a lot of similar people out there that are just crazy when it comes to running distance. No matter how far people ran, no matter how quickly they crossed Tennessee and no matter how quickly some of them yo-yo’d across the state knocking miles out like they were millimetres there are so many winners out there in that event, over 19,000 of them. Many of them took on their own challenge in this event, and that’s what made it so great. For those that run for fun they can clock the miles, and those that are more modest in their distance abilities, they can run with others virtually, and achieve goals that they would never have thought possible.


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