By Amanda Curtis, Staff Reporter
Moaning in agony, trekking in solitude, panting in unbearable heat, inner thoughts, hopes, experiences on repeat in your mind, feet covered in blisters, body soaked with salty sweat. To the ordinary person, this may sound like pain. To the individuals running the Vol State 500K, it’s a pleasure.
Being able to push your body to it’s limit, being strong enough to ward off the inner voice screaming at you to give up, renewing your spirit, summoning an awakening of self discovery; these are just some of the reasons that encourage people from every continent to run to “The Rock.”
On Thursday, July 11, 120 runners from around the world stepped off the Ferry from Dorena Landing, Missouri into Hickman, Kentucky. Their mission? Complete a foot race to Castle Rock, Georgia.
This year, Greg Armstrong of Castalian Springs set a new course record as he hustled to the finish line first in three days, 14 hours, 11 minutes and 31 seconds. He did this feat unaided with no crew to help along the journey, aiding with water, food, drying towels, resting spaces, etc.
“For me ‘unaided’ meant no hotels, no showers, and very minimal road Angel support,” said Greg. “I rested for 10 min on a cot in front of a church, maybe 15 on a lawn chair at the Nutt house but all other horizontal breaks were in ditches, park benches or side of the road. I almost broke my vow of no hotels in Manchester but resisted. I applaud anyone that covers the 314 miles on foot, my hat is off to anyone that reaches the Rock!”
“The greatest hazard of the race is traffic,” according to Lazarus Lake, writer, adventurer and race director of the Vol State 500K. Runner Dave Moore can attest to that by experience. The proud American was hit by a Dodge Caravan in a hit and run in Columbia.
Animals are another hazard of the journey. Lucky for racers, fellow runner Casey Thivierge was able to send a warning out via the facebook group of aggressive dogs at mile 210. Once he passed the dogs, he was able to tune back in to Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” for inspiration.
Others run in groups to stay motivated. Juli Aistars and Kim McCoy run at different paces but remain loyal to each other. Each are determined to stick together until the end, not leaving the other behind, no matter what.
A group of three proved to be in good spirits around mile 150 in Hohenwald. New grandparents and two-time racers Carol and Jeff Manwaring of Utah and Taco Bell loving Cory Reese stopped to answer the questions of four and five year old little girls.
*See the interviews below.
An interview with Australian, Dave Baikie, is also available. As an Army Veteran, he trained for the 500K, hoping this year will not bring the bad luck of an ankle injury that last year’s attempt brought.
Before making it to Hohenwald, the heat of the road temperatures had already caused Cory to have blisters and heat rash on his legs. “We’ve seen lots of roadkill: one deer, one snake, one huge bird, lost of possums, lots of armadillos, tons of frogs. Armadillos definitely stink the worse!” However, roadkill and power naps on bumpy asphalt driveways are not going to keep Cory, Carol and Jeff from making it to The Rock in the end.
This journey is less about “making it” to most, and more about what’s found along the way. “I feel the race is changing me,” Cory said. “I’m not sure yet what kind of changes are happening in me, but something is happening inside.”
With a 10 day time limit, rough terrain with hills, valleys, traffic, dogs, hot sun in the daytime and darkness, only about 80 percent of runners actually make it to “The Rock.” At press time Tuesday, five runners had finished the race and 19 had dropped out.
“The world may never know their name,
but on this day they will find in themselves a strength they never knew was there.
The greatness that is in each of us,
if we have the will to call on it. It is what they have come to find.
And that is the prize they will take home.
Yes, these are just ordinary people.
Engaged in a hundred private wars.
But out there on the open road,
They are accomplishing extraordinary things.
Vol State 500k Race Director