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Strolling Jim 40 Mile Ultra Marathon Review

On May 1st of this year, I ran and survived the Strolling Jim 40 Mile Run – Ultra Marathon – in Wartrace, Tennessee.  I was, by far, the green one of the 109 participants, as most had done the race before and/or much longer Ultras.  For example, the guy I had dinner with the night before had coompleted several 100-mile races.

Six years ago I decided to do a full marathon (26.2 miles) to see if I could do it.   It was also 1 of the 100 things I wanted to do in my life list….which has now become known worldwide as The Bucket List thanks to Justin Zackham (nice guy btw) and his hit film of the same title.

Having run 7 marathons in the past 5 months, and a marathon each of the past two weekends, I was looking for a new challenge, as well as a long distance race within driving distance.  A couple of Google searches later and I found the Strolling Jim 40 Mile Run in Bedford County. I felt good 2 days after the Country Music Marathon in Nashville and decided to register for the Strolling Jim in an attempt to push my endurance limits further.

THE STROLLING JIM 40 MILE RUN

Registration/Cost: A buck a mile! That’s right, just $40 to run this great race.  The registration process was very easy on UltraSignUp.com, and the real beauty is there is no added on fees ala Ticketmaster.  UltraSignup also does a great job keeping track of Ultra Marathoners race results and ranking runners based on their prior results.

Pre Race: Packet and bib pickup was in a small tent across from the historic Walking Horse Hotel right there in the small town of Wartrace.  The hotel was also host to the pre-race pasta dinner the night before that was included in the price of the race.  It was easy to get to and the pasta dinner was all-you-can eat and good.

The race started promptly on Saturday at 7 am with Gary Cantrell blowing a conch shell to signal for the runners to take off.

The 40 Mile Run:  Never having done a race of this distance before, I was unsure as to the proper strategy to employ to conquer it.  As with any race, I had three goals: 1. Be alive at the end of the day, 2. Finish the race, and 3. a projected time I wanted to finish in.  I set my projected goal at 8 hours.  Over the course of 40 miles you meet many friendly runners along the way.  Ultra marathoners love to share their advice, strategies, and nutrition plans with you to help pass the time and miles.

I grew up in the flat hills of West Tennessee so I found the large elevation changes (elevation chart) at Strolling Jim challenging at times.  I learned mid way through that if I was going to walk, that I needed to walk up the steep hills instead of using all my energy to run up the hills then being spent and having to walk down the declines.  The large hills/mountains (it seemed at times) did have a positive effect in helping keep the legs fresh by almost always using different muscles depending upon if I was running up or down the hill.

There was plenty of hydration along the way, in the form of water jugs, for refilling our water bottles.  There were also 4 stations to have a drop bag.  This came in handy for snacks, gels, first aid, and/or having an extra pair of dry running shoes.

The course was fair for the most part. In my opinion, the first half was tougher than the last twenty miles.  ’The Walls’ during miles 30-35 were small bumpy hills that helped rejuvenate the legs, body, and restored belief in me that I was in fact going to be able to finish the 40 miler if I kept taking it mile-by-mile.  I found the last 10 miles of the course to be extremely beautiful and full of big green trees providing shade over several extended parts.

I ended up finishing strong and meeting my 8 hour goal by finishing in 7 hours 37 minutes.  45-year old Brazilian Valmir Nunes blew everyone away winning in 4 hours 44 minutes.  The last person across the finish line had a time of 12 hours 46 minutes.

Nunes also holds the Badwater Ultra Marathon record of 22:51:29.  Badwater is known as the toughest Ultra in the world.

I luckily finished the race before the hail and massive rain storm took place.  The rains continued on through the next couple of days, in what led to the historic Nashville flooding that did hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and forced evacuations of the city.  I might have been finished, but there were runners still out on the course for nearly five hours after I was done in those conditions.   I really admire those runners, their perseverance, and how they endured to finish the race in such conditions.

Post Race: After finishing I felt great considering it was my first Ultra.   The mixture of walking and running over the last 15 miles helped keep the legs fresh, evenly worn, and helped me finish.  I was quickly given a medal for conquering the 40 at the finish line.  The medal was simple, and comparable to a 5K medal, but a nice keepsake to remember ‘the Jim.’  I felt even better upon finding the complimentary post-race Bar-B-Q buffet complete with sides and SWEET TEA…yes my vice!

I enjoyed meeting several runners during the Strolling Jim that included Ray KrolewiczWill JorgensenBeth McCurdyChrissy Ferguson, and Juli Aistars (who won the Vol State 500k two months later).  They were all extremely nice and hopefully I we will run into them again soon at another race.

It’s a great race!  That is the short and sweet explanation of the Strolling Jim 40 Mile Run.  I plan to make it back next year and finish faster to hopefully earn one of the coveted red shirts that goes to runners that finish the race in under 7 hours.

Race director Mike Melton did a superb job putting the race on and in taking time to mail stuff to those of us that left gear bags at the drop spots.

The 33rd version of The Strolling Jim 40 Mile Run is set for May 7, 2011. More info about this run can be found on The Strolling Jim website.

2010 Strolling Jim 40 Mile Results

Official Site of the Strolling Jim 40 Mile Run

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This post was written by:

- who has written 1049 posts on Run It Fast®.

Joshua Holmes has completed 150 marathons/ultramarathons while running 100+ miles 31 including races such as the Badwater 135, Western States 100, The Last Annual Vol State 500K (3x). His favorite races to date are the Vol State 500K, Badwater 135, Catalina Eco Marathon, Chimera 100, Across The Years, Savage Gulf Trail Marathon, Strolling Jim 40 Miler, Tunnel Hill 100, RUTS, EC100 and the Flying Monkey Marathon in his home state of Tennessee. Follow @bayou Google+

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2 Responses to “Strolling Jim 40 Mile Ultra Marathon Review”

  1. Beth says:

    Nice race report. I’d forgotten about the drive home after the race. It was my friend, Ashley’s first ultra and she was sick the entire way home. I had to stop several times in the rain because she was so sick :( Driving in the storm was almost harder than running the race!

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