Michelle Takes on The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee

It sounds like the million-dollar idea began as just another “Laz” and “Durb” concept.  Laz is best known for creating the lore surrounding The Barkley Marathons. “Durb”, (Steve Durba) is a Race Director and ultra-running legend in his own right.  I’ve run the Barkley Fall Classic and admit, I’ve been sucked (suckered?) into applying to the mysterious 100+ mile race. One year, I even received a response from Laz himself -- letting me know I screwed up the application process.  

Due to COVID-19, and the cancellation of every live race across the country this spring, the pair set up the The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000K (GVRAT).   The GVRAT, with almost 19,000 registrants, was what the running community (and me included) badly needed. The virtual race kicked off May 1st and I’m in the middle of the pack, hoping to climb my way to the top 20% percent of finishers with my slow and steady game plan. 

Why am I running this virtual race? Probably for the same reason as many entrants:

  1. To find and keep motivation at a time when so much seems out of my control.
  2. Fending off the “Quarantine 15”. Yes, I watched every second of Tiger King and have had at least one giant bowl of ice cream every day since the Shelter-in-Place order back in March. 
  3. Laz and Durb make decisions about who gets to toe the line at the big Barkley. Who knows? Participating in GVRAT might help next year’s Barkley application. 
  4. Accountability.   

As a truly veteran runner, it gets harder each passing year to set and achieve fitness goals.  This GVRAT, so far, has been a blessing to my running life; I am excited to log miles and see my progress across Tennessee.  I’m also motivated by the opportunity for my company Fuel 100 to be able to support those logging miles in any virtual race. 

Speaking for myself, I know it is not going to be easy or pretty. On week two, I took a tumble on the trail; my goal of 16 miles immediately compromised.  I have learned something running over the past 4 decades -- flexibility is the key when taking on big new goals, important races, and life in general.  I accepted my fate in that moment of pain and settled for 11 miles instead. I was thankful for the couple of miles I had in the GVRAT bank from my previous weekend’s long runs. 

Below are a few things I’ve learned about keeping big mileage goals. 1000 kilometers over the course of the summer is a pretty stout goal!

  1. Stay consistent – even if you choose to walk more days than run.
  2. Have fun!  This can be a grounding activity in a life of unknowns.
  3. Change up your daily route and mileage. Do not try to do five miles per day on the same loop.  This will lead to injury and discontentment. 
  4. Drag a friend along - virtually.  Even if you can’t meet up to run, it’s valuable to have someone who is along for the ride with goals of their own.
  5. Plan one big long run every 10 days.  Work up to it, if needed. Start by running six and then adding a four-mile walk on the end.  Build from there where you can pull off a 20 miler in August, no problem. 
  6. Fuel any efforts longer than 60 minutes with 200-300 calories an hour.
  7. Foam rollers, tennis balls, or filled and frozen Dixie cups should absolutely be added to your self-care routine. 
  8. Podcasts, audio books, running playlists – all great if you deem them safe to use!



Fuel100 Co-Founder

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