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100 cultural icons of Tennessee over 1,000kms

Some ran these thousand kilometres in a couple of weeks. Some in a hundred days, like me.

Running 100kms a day for 10 days is hard. It takes excellent recovery and commitment.

Running 10kms a day for 100 days is also hard. It takes a different kind of commitment. Life changes hour to hour. A three-month window almost guarantees a few ups and downs in life. The runner’s mood changes, the motivation level wildly fluctuating. Yet the 10km-per-day average must remain a constant. That is harder than it sounds. Hats off to those who managed 20/30km-per-day average in over a month. That is some serious commitment!

What drew me to the GVRAT1000, though, is not the thousand kays. It was the promise of a cultural experience that the state of Tennessee has to offer. So I planned my run over 100 days to learn about and experience the 100 cultural icons of Tennessee.

What are those icons? Oh, that would take a book. Indeed, what I experienced culturally over those 100 days would provide enough material for a book. There was ample food for the senses; lots of reading, listening, writing and contemplating, much of them done while the feet were moving.

At university, I had written a thesis about Mark Twain. Born a Missouri man, Twain spent much time at the Mississippi River. That deep connection with the Mississippi showed in his writing. I re-visited some of his favourite works and characters: Sawyer, Finn, Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, etc. He was a prolific writer, a wise one. Those who haven’t read Twain might have heard of his popular quotes:

“Truth is stranger than fiction.”

“There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.”

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”

“Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.”

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

There were so many. So much wisdom thinly disguised under a veil of satire.

And of course, there was Tennessee Williams. Born in Mississippi, south of Tennessee, his namesake alone signals a must-visit for those interested in Tennessee. I remember considering Paul Newman and Liz Taylor to be the benchmarks for acting in the Hollywood remake of Williams’ exemplary play “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”.

About 200 miles away from the finish, I reached Knoxville. I had been looking forward to this moment for weeks. It gave me the excuse to re-binge on Quentin Tarantino’s lifetime work. He has been saying for a long time that he would make only ten movies. Officially “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” was his ninth, but depending on how you look at his collaboration efforts, the man might have already done ten and will never make another one.

And then there was Elvis, Morgan Freeman, the Queen of Soul, Nashville the City of Music, and that man Lazarus Lake himself – the craziness behind this GVRAT race, the growing global phenomenon known as the Backyard Ultra, and the race that eats its young for breakfast – the Barkly Marathon.

It would indeed take a book to cover those 100 works. I am glad I had signed up for this cultural journey. Thank you Laz and runners for sharing this journey with me.