Historically, the Last Annual Vol State Road Race offered nothing to runners upon reaching the the 314-mile finish line, other than a well deserved rest and perhaps a hand shake by the fabled and infamous race director Lazarus Lake. Before the 2013 running of the event, one of the runners decided to design a small stitch patch that could be awarded to the runners that successfully made the pilgrimage across the great state of Tennessee from Dorena Landing to Castle Rock. This first patch also coincided with the introduction of the Vol State race jacket, offering runners a great place to sew their hard-earned embroidery after their journey ended. Each patch design makes an effort to capture a unique quality of the Last Vol State Road Race that is relatable to all current and past runners of the event. Every patch features a small map of the state of Tennessee highlighting the course route. The four stars on the map represent the Vol State start and finish at Dorena Landing and Castle Rock, and two sites that feature other races hosted by Lazarus Lake: the town of Wartrace (The Strolling Jim Race), and Frozen Head State Park (The Barkley Marathons Race).
“The Open Road”
A quintessential theme of the Vol State Road Race are the endless miles of open road running. Many of the sections of the course feature long, exposed segments, with little-to-no possibility of resupply or shade.
“The South Pittsburg Bridge”
This well-known Vol State landmark is a sight for many a sore eye. Upon crossing the Tennessee River over this bridge, runners have passed the 300-mile mark, and have less than 15 miles to the finish line. Unfortunately, those last 15 miles feature one of the toughest climbs on the course…the dreaded climb up Sand Mountain to Castle Rock.
Many of the roads along the Vol State course have no shoulders to run along. This can make for many a scary “brush” with heavy traffic. While not the best place to take a rest and deal with blistered feet, most hearty Vol State runners are un-phased.
There is no greater feeling at Vol State than that glorious moment of sitting in “The Throne” after reaching the Castle Rock finish line. In true Vol State fashion, “The Throne” is always half-broken, and crawling with ticks…but to a newly-minted Vol State finisher, nothing could be more delightful or comfortable.
“The Death Slump”
Many Vol Staters would be embarrassed to admit, but all have had moments on the course where the “Death Slump” was employed. This position usually involves collapsing in a fetal position on whatever surface is immediately in front of the runner, without care of the surroundings. This may be a patch of grass, a cemetery, or even a parking lot. It matters not. Occasionally, a wild scavenger may pay that runner a visit, thinking it has found some delicious carrion.
“The Bench of Despair”
Probably one of the most well known landmarks on the Vol State course. Located only slightly past the half-way point at mile 186, this resting spot comes when most runners hit their low point…realizing that the end is still so far away. The bench offers nothing more than a quiet place to rest, and an overwhelming realization that there is still a lot more suffering to come.
Every Vol State runner feels invincible as they ride the Dorena-Hickman Ferry over to the official Vol State start. With fresh legs, and a fresh attitude, they often enjoy the cool breeze over the early morning Mississippi River. It’s the only time along the course where all runners find themselves together and able to talk about their plans for their runs. It’s hard not to get caught up in the wonderful visions of what the next 314 miles will entail. It generally only takes about 20 miles to Union City, TN to realize just what sort of event they signed up for, and no matter what grand race strategies were made, things will most certainly not all go as planned.
The Complete Set 2013-2019
Author – John Fegyveresi