This has been a summer like no other. Stay-at-home orders, physical distancing, and social and economic hardships brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic have left an indelible impact. However, despite the disruptions and challenges caused by the coronavirus, there have been some silver-linings to embrace. For me, the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000K was one of them.
Similar to many other runners, I had spent the earlier months of the year training for a spring marathon. Those plans were quickly dashed once Covid-19 began spreading across the nation. Although the marathon cancelation was disappointing, it was the right move to keep people safe. In light of these developments, I found myself with a solid fitness base, no clear fitness goals, and a need for regular exercise for maintaining mental and physical wellness during an immensely challenging time.
After several weeks of exploring whether or not is was both safe and ethical to continue running outside, I began to emerge from quarantine. At first, the streets in our city were vacant and enveloped with eerie ambience during my runs. However, with summer approaching, the change in weather coupled with the pent-up need to venture out began to transform the landscape. Neighbors emerged, other runners returned to the streets, and some semblance of normalcy returned to our community.
Despite this, I was still feeling a bit unmoored. I was experiencing much change in my life. Running has always provided time and space for me to go deep into my thoughts. However, what quickly became apparent was that I needed a goal. Running for the sake of running just wan’t enough. I needed something to work towards.
Enter the Great Virtual Run Across Tennessee. Organized by the legendary Laz Lake — founder of the Barkley Marathons — and endurance athlete x race promoter Steve “Durb” Durbin, the GVRAT1000K was the perfect race for pandemic times. The race extends from May 1 to August 31, 2020. Participants must run approximately 635 miles / 1021kilometers that span the length of Tennessee, from the southwest corner to the northeast corner. In sum, that averages approximately five miles per day.
Over 19,000 participants signed up for the GVRAT1000K. Clearly the idea had found a substantial audience. Having discovered the race a little late, I didn’t sign-up and begin my journey until May 17. Three short months later, on Friday, August 21, I completed my virtual journey across the state. I had a rough start thanks to the many work demands on my time. However, once July rolled around, I found myself knocking out 10-14 mile runs approximately six days per week. Given the myriad challenges I was facing, a couple hours of running each day was a welcomed respite.
The GVRAT1000K was the perfect objective for the most unusual summer of my life. It filled a critical void and provide a goal to focus on during the pandemic. Now, I find myself wondering what comes next!