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Gary Cantrell - Barkley Marathons founder

Tennessee test for the summer

Are you on your way across Tennessee (virtually)? If not, you could join more than 6,000 competitors in the modestly titled 'Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1,000K' – yes, that's 1,000 kilometres or a little over 621 miles.

The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1,000K is the brainchild of the colourful Barkley Marathons creator, Gary 'Lazarus Lake' Cantrell (pictured above). If you are not familiar with Barkley Marathons – surely the toughest ultramarathon in the world – here is a link to an entertaining film titled Where Dreams Go To Die on YouTube.

Suffice to say, only 18 men (and no women) are classified as 'official finishers' of Barkley Marathons since the event started in 1986. These elite few have completed five loops of at least 20 miles in Frozen Head State Park within the 60 hours time limit. Sounds easy? Take a look at the film above, then you'll know why it took until 1995 for anyone to officially 'finish'! Just one of the startling statistics relating to the course is the elevation gain – 60,000 feet or the equivalent of climbing Everest twice!

So when the 2020 edition of Barkley Marathons was cancelled in March, with State Parks closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Gary Cantrell and co-conspirator Steve 'Durb' Durbin got their heads together and came up with a suitably huge Barkley-esque virtual challenge.

The 'race' is already underway, having started on Friday (1 May) but you can join anytime for an entry fee of $60 and you will have plenty of time to catch up. The race finishes on Monday 31 August and, if you are a serial overachiever, you can always go for the out and back 2,000K version for the elusive Double Crossing medal!

The challenge works out at a whisker over 5 miles a day (for the 1,000K) so it is a bit of a stretch but achievable for many runners and might be the perfect way to focus your training as the lockdown stretches ahead into the summer months.

All the entry details are available on RunSignUp here. You can even enter your doggie companion for $30, with 100% of the fee going to animal shelter charities. The few rules that you need to follow are clearly explained. All you have to do is log your daily run (or walk) mileage and the clever tech will plot your position on the map. The system will add information about the points you are virtually passing and provides a link to Google Street View so you can have a nose around yourself.

Click here for race and entry details and good luck!

Images by Brian Dalek and Barkley Marathons

Virtual Race Across Tennessee course map

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