This summer, I ran and completed The Great Virtual 1000K Across Tennessee. Here’s how it all went down…
It started with the Tokyo Marathon. All runners who were not considered elite were no longer qualified to race, due to COVID-19. The next up, LA marathon, it slipped under the radar, and went on as planned. But the following weekend the New York City Half Marathon, cancelled with out hesitation. It became a domino effect and all the races seemed to be cancelled with a few postponed. And even though it was just a race, when each race cancelled, it stung. It was March when things began to close. COVID-19 was here in the States, but it most likely had been circulating for a while.
Business has to continue, but in a new way. To be innovative race directors started to promote a virtual option for their race, or create a new virtual race that would excite the runner. The one that really appealed and motivated me, was The Great Virtual 1000K Across Tennessee.
Virtual races were not unheard of. They have been around, and are a great “fund raising” option, but in the past, virtual races just didn’t do anything for me.
However, when I heard about, The Great Virtual 1000K Across Tennessee, I signed up without hesitation. It was the first of it’s kind. It was created by Laz, the creator of the Barkley Marathons, so there was no doubt in my mind- It was going to be the most EPIC race of the summer. Oh, what’s that you say – you haven’t heard of the Barkley Marathons, well let me clue you in.
The Barkley Marathons is a marathon distance race in the back country, mountains of Tennessee. It is a mystery race, with very little marketing. The date is a mystery. Runners have to apply and be accepted to run the race. Once accepted, and at the start, runners are required to camp out the night before. The start time is a mystery, but you know the race has begun when the race director, Laz, lights his cigarette. The race course is a map that runners have to follow, and very few runners actually complete the course and make it to the finish line. If that’s not a unique challenging race, I don’t know what is.
The Great Virtual 1000K Across Tennessee was not the Barkley Marathons but created by the same race director, I knew, after all of the races being cancelled, and nothing to look forward to, this was just what I needed.
A 1000K is equivalent to 622 miles. That is a lot of miles, especially for me, who normally on average runs 100 miles a month. However, the race started May 1 and all miles had to be logged by September 1 which gave me four months to complete the distance. That means, I would have to run 155.5 miles a month, which would up my monthly mileage by 55 miles (give or take) to what I’m use to running. With that being said, walking counted toward the total mileage, which in the later months the walking mileage became a necessity to log in order to complete the race.
I am a marathon runner, who over the years while training for long distance races, realized extremely high mileage burns me out. I actually feel my best mentally and physically with lower mileage training plans – I’m talking about 25-30 miles a week, maybe peaking at 40 miles a week during peak week during marathon training. I’m one who believes in quality mileage, over quantity mileage. I’m one to believe in every mile should have a purpose behind it. So I have never done a run streak because I believe rest days are an important part of training. However, at this point in the year 2020, there are no “live/in-person” road races happening, so I decided to not follow any organized training plan, and to just go for it.
When May passed by, and I realized I was slightly behind on mileage, I doubted myself. I thought, “Well if I don’t finish this thing, at least the registration fee went towards a good cause, an organization called Feed America.” But being doubtful, didn’t mean I was quitting. It was then that I realized, if I’m going to play catch up, it’s time to start a run streak, and run EVERY DAY. So my first run streak began.
Running during this Pandemic has really saved me. When there is nothing open, and nothing to do, the one thing I could do was grab my running stroller with my girls in tow, and hit the trail to log some miles. It gave us the opportunity to be outside every day. We soaked up the summer sunshine and heat, as I pounded the pavement up rolling hills. We spotted all sorts of animals on the trail – turtles, deer, snakes, butterflies, caterpillars, lizards, ducks, geese, and many more. I stopped to let the girls pick wild flowers, and feed the ducks. After many of our runs, I allowed my girls to explore the sandy beaches right off of the trial barefoot. One day, we found tea cups that had washed up on shore, and took them home, as my four year olds treasures.
As the memories continued to be made on these daily stroller runs, my mileage became easier and easier. Soon I realized I had run 150 miles for the month of June. Most weeks I ran, 35 mile weeks, some were 40 mile weeks. My girls were enjoying being a part of this running challenge, just as much as I did. And to tell you the truth, I was feeling amazing, and extremely proud that I was running this type of mileage. I wasn’t feeling burned out, I was feeling energized.
July came and went, and I had another awesome month, averaging out 140-150 running miles, most days with the stroller. When we weren’t running the beautiful trail, I had discovered a really fun 4-6 mile route in my neighborhood, that included some gigantic hills, and views of the Monuments, Pentagon, Capitol, Arlington Cemetery.
August rolled in, and I was still going strong, but decided to start including all of the walking miles that we had done in order to guarantee my finish. After almost every single run, we would walk at lease a mile, sometimes two miles depending on where we were. We have a wildlife habitat, called the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Habitat, right off of our running trail. My kids call this “The Forest.” We would hike this after every run, it is about 2 miles. This was important to do, to give my girls that chance to explore and get their own exercise.
I also ran a couple 9 mile runs with the stroller. I couldn’t believe my kids sat in the stroller for that long, but they did without a complaint. Sometimes, Ava my 2 year old would fall asleep. Other times, Zoe and Ava would play with one another. When we ran under bridges they would yell, “Gecco,” “Owlette” and play PJ Mask. Sometimes they would play flaries, someone being Shimmer, Glimmer, or Shine.
Seriously, my girls were so good, and I am forever thankful. I love them being there with me on my runs, and will cherish this time for now, because there will be a time when they will out grow the stroller.
The system used for logging miles for the 1000K was on an honor system, but the best part was you were able to see a map of where you were running in Tennessee every time new mileage was updated. Another fun part about the race was connecting with others on social media. I followed quite a few runners on instagram who also were logging miles, some were friends in my local area, others were people I had just discovered, some were actually in Canada.
I finished the Great Virtual 1000K Across Tennessee on August 26th, 2020, after a 100 day run streak. I received a congratulation email from the race director, and a couple days later my race BUCKLE arrived in the mail.
I am now considering myself a Virtual Ultra Finisher.
Along with many other industries, COVID definitely rocked the running community this year. There is no doubt about that. And although, races were cancelled, it is very cool to see how resilient the running community is, and how innovative this community became, in order to keep us all connected and running. It is actually a very powerful positive thing. I probably would have never run this type of mileage, or started a run streak, if it wasn’t for the whole situation, but I did with my girls at tow.
I did it, and I have the BUCKLE and race T Shirt to always remember, the summer of COVID, when I ran all the miles, across Tennessee.