Asphalt in My Blood
i got hooked in 1970.
it wasn’t really a big deal,
i ran from tullahoma to estill springs and back.
it was only 16 miles, altho that was the furthest i had ever run.
the big thing was, i got asphalt in my blood.
from that day on,
i could not escape the call of the open road.
the map didn’t start until 1977.
i had used maps for quite a while to plan new places to run.
it was a miserable january,
and i had brightened it by getting a map of the city,
and using january to run every single road,
marking them off with a magic marker.
one night i got out my county maps
and shaded all my runs. all the places i had been.
then i cut out the maps and taped them together:
coffee, bedford, and franklin counties.
they looked dam impressive, so i hung it on the wall over the kitchen table.
the itch got worse,
and soon my map included lincoln, moore, and rutherford counties.
it was either 1979 or 1980 that tom osler changed my life.
i read some article, either by or about him, that introduced a concept so revolutionary
that it completely redefined my capabilities.
walking was not just what happened when you could run no further.
it was acceptable to walk on purpose.
and if you mixed in a little walking as you went,
your horizons expanded beyond the horizon.
suddenly i found that i was not limited to 30 or 35 miles in a run.
i could go on and on indefinitely.
in 1980 i took my first stab at running across tennessee
(north to south-125 miles seemed plenty ambitious at the time)
after making every mistake a noob can make,
i ended up aborting after 93 miles.
it was a failure that would give birth to the vol-state
(but that is another story, for another day)
as time went by, i added to my skill set and my tools.
they invented water bottles
and i got me a liquipak.
around 1983 i got a bodabelt 100-miler fanny pack.
i still use the liquipack and bodabelt 100-miler.
no better products have been produced.
growing my map became a passion.
i left on christmas eve and ran overnight to sandra’s dad’s house in dickson for christmas.
it was a hundred and some odd miles,
depending on which way you went.
i eventually went all of them,
and part of the holiday tradition became reports on where family members passed me on their way to the gatherings.
i took trips that went on for days, overnighting in cheap motels…
or cemeteries and church lawns.
my map grew and grew.
sandra took me to arkansas, and let me out.
a week later i showed up at home.
(she loves to tell people that no matter where she dumps me, i always find my way home)
somewhere along the way,
my goal became to add every county in the state to my map…
of course there are rules.
all the lines have to connect.
the map i have now is something to see.
it is 30 feet long, and 5 feet tall.
it is crisscrossed with lines;
it is not enough to do every county,
i have to do every route between every city.
the annexation of new counties eventually slowed.
(there are 95 counties in tennessee)
many of the counties are far away.
some lacked suitable roads for trekking.
and i spent a lot of happy days running new roads in counties already on the map.
but the map has never stopped growing.
i have never really had a plan.
there were so many counties, and so many runs to do.
i would just pick something new, plan it and do it.
i have seen some changes during the 43 years of this project.
the days of doing 30 miles at 8 minutes a mile,
and calling it “taking it easy” seem like a dream.
these days, as an old man with over 100k miles on the odometer, and a crippled leg,
20 minute miles feel like flying.
but i have never forgotten the ultimate goal.
altho i cannot go “fast” any more,
the horizon is still only limited by the time i have available.
last night it dawned on me that the end is drawing near.
it was finally time to sit down and take a count on what i have left.
what i came up with is 7 “runs” on my bucket list.
7 “runs” i have to do before i die.
if i could do any run i wanted.
these are the runs i would do:
bartlett to milan (haywood and crockett county)- 80 miles
brownsville bisects this one right in the middle.
convenient for making this a nice challenging 2-day run.
i ran the 1976 jackson marathon, which went into crockett, and does connect.
but that was pre-map, and apparently the actual course is lost to history.
it doesn’t count unless i can mark it in.
knoxville to tazewell (union county) -45 miles.
one good day.
mooresburg to sneedville to rogersville (hancock county)-50 miles
one long day.
i did a 60 mile run in hancock and hawkins county back around 1985, but it does not connect… yet
bristol to morristown (washington and greene counties)-83 miles
on us 11-e, i would love to do this as a continuous run of around 36 hours.
bristol to mountain city to elizabethton to bluff city (johnson and carter counties) 78 miles
up in the smoky mountains.
greenville to newport to sevierville to knoxville (cocke and sevier counties) 79 miles
i’d have done this a long time ago, except fot the smoky mt tourist traffic.
these roads used to be shoulderless, and i am not sure they are much better now.
timing will be important.
johnson city to erwin to the appalachian trail (unicoi county) 50 miles
this just seems like the run to complete my project with.
something about ending at the AT (home of so many other men’s dreams) just seems right.
there they are.
despite my physical limitations, the real obstacle these days
is my financial limitations.
but i have made many good friends over the years,
and they have been wonderful in recent years,
accompanying me on the way,
providing good company
and making it possible for me to do these “runs.”
in my dream finish,
durb, and dirt, and others who have been a part of my lifetime project
are with me on that final 50 miler.
it is on a 4-lane road, with plenty of room for us all.
i think that would be the greatest run of my life.
at the same time as i was preparing this list,
my eye was caught by dozens of other roads as yet undone.
this list are the ones to complete the map.
there is more open road calling to me than i can complete in a lifetime.
and that is the way it should be.
living is not living,
without hearing the call of the open road.
[originally posted by Lazarus Lake/Gary Cantrell to the Ultralist in 2013. Laz is the creator of the Barkley Marathons, Vol State 500K, Strolling Jim 40 Miler, A Race for the Ages, and Laz’s Backyard Ultra]