While a few of the leading runners in this year’s Vol State Road Race made their way into Carroll County late Thursday afternoon, most of the 120 participants passed through on Friday, alternately running and walking southbound on Highway 22.
Making the 314-mile trek from the Missouri-Kentucky border all the way to Castle Rock, Georgia are aspiring and veteran athletes and adventurers both young and old, male and female, haling from all over the world and from every walk of life.
Two of those athletes – Eric Lawrie, 36, and Casey Thivierge, 45 – came all the way down from Ontario, Canada to take part in the mega-marathon.
This is the first time that either Lawrie or Thivierge have attempted a race of this length.
“I’ve never done a race like this,” said Lawrie, who works as a paramedic. “It might be naïve and a little misguided, but I’m having a blast.”
“So far, it’s been hard, but we’ve had a lot of fun,” said Thivierge, who is director of engineering for an auto tool shop.
The two friends often run together as part of a running group in the Ontario area, and they hope to stay together throughout the race if possible.
“We’ll have to see what happens,” said Thivierge. “We both made a promise to do what it takes to finish.”
They were just coming into the Huntingdon city limits at around 9 a.m. Friday morning after spending the night with many other runners at the Gleason Fire Station.
Not far behind the two Canadians were Cory Reese, a 41-year-old social worker from Utah, and Ed Masuoka, a 67-year-old Maryland resident who works as a project manager with N.A.S.A.
While this is Reese’s first Vol State Road Race, Masuoka is a five-time veteran working on his sixth successful finish.
“It’s the people I meet and the people who do it that keeps me coming back,” said Masuoka.
“It’s in the blood,” said retired teacher and coach Richard Westbrook, 72, from Jonesboro, Georgia. “Just the experience brings you back.”
Westbrook, who is aiming at his seventh Vol State finish, commented that he had a very difficult and painful experience last year after breaking his toe early in the race.
“This year I just want to make it without breaking anything,” he said.
“I think it’s awesome, a great race,” said Lisa Hansen, 47, of Omaha, Nebraska, who is participating for the first time with her good friend, Troy Wolford, 50, from Council Bluffs, Iowa.
“It’s definitely hot,” said Wolford.
Another first-timer and a West Tennessee resident, Leslie Studtmann, 35, of Jackson, said she is hoping to finish the race in six or seven days.
All runners have just 10 days from the July 11 starting date to reach the finish line in Georgia.
“I’ve done six 100-mile races,” said Studtmann, “so this was just the next step.”
As runners passed through downtown Huntingdon on Friday, they were treated to free bottles of water and a place to sit and cool off for a bit, courtesy of FirstBank and The Dixie.