Posts Tagged ‘Richard Westbrook’

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YAY! Westbrook completed the grueling 314 miles, hobbling in on a painful, blistered foot around 1-2 am this morning. His time was 8 days 15 hours 20 minutes and 26 seconds finishing 35th out of 40 screwed runners. His quote after the race from the tracking website: “Boy…oh boy…. Somewhere along the way I opened Lazdora’s box, and out jumped blisters and muscle spasms.”

Out of 22 crewed runners, 6 remain on the road trying to make their way to the finish. Of 40 screwed runners, 3 are still running along somewhere.

















LAVS 2016 – DAY 6 AND 1/2 UPDATE

Westbrook is at mile 250 in Manchester, Tennessee. 64 miles to go! It is 104 degrees with no shade around. He is hanging in there, trying to make it to the finish. Right now, Westbrook is 29th out of 43 screwed runners. Hopefully no more blisters or other major problems. Bring it on home!

Megamarathon to pass through Union City


What sort of person would want to run 314 miles across Tennessee in mid-July?

On the morning of Thursday, July 10, 2014, some eighty six runners from across the US, and around the world, will board the first Mississippi River ferry from Dorena Landing, Missouri to begin just such an adventure. The finish line will await them some 314 miles away, at Castle Rock, high atop Sand Mountain in Northwest Georgia. In between the ferry and “the Rock” they will take on one of the most daunting challenges in the running world, the Vol-State Road Race.

The pre-race favorite is Johann Steene from Stockholm Sweden, fresh off a 260+ mile National Record for 48 hours. Other top contenders include 2010 winner Juli Aistars of Lake Zurich, Illinois, the only woman to have won the Vol-State, 2011 winner Don Winkley of Corpus Christie, Texas, who won at the age of 73, and 2012 winner Dan (Feral) Fox of Seattle, Washington. 2013 champion, Joe Fejes, of Hoschton, Georgia, who set the current course record of 3:08:10:16 (3 days-8 hours-10 minutes-16 seconds) will be participating as a member of a 4-man relay team that starts on Saturday. Fejes is “saving” his energy for an attempt to become the first American to go over 600 miles in 6 days, in more than a century, at the Six Days in the Dome race in Anchorage , Alaska in August.

Hopes for the first Tennessee winner since 2007 are pinned on Friendship Christian School Cross Country coach, Nelson Armstrong of Castalian Springs, who has logged 140 miles in 24 hours, but will be running in his first multi-day race.

Marcio Villar do Amaral, of Rio de Janerio, Brazil, had been among the top contenders before suffering torn tendons in his ankle two weeks before the race. Marcio, his Vol-State attempt tied to a fundraising effort for Cerebral Palsy victims in his home country, has chosen to run the race anyway rather than see his fundraising efforts go for naught. Without a crew, speaking only Portuguese, and running on a severely injured ankle, Marcio faces long odds in his attempt. The knowledge that medical care for 200 children is riding on his effort will put him on the ferry. Only sheer determination will get him to the Rock.

While the contest for the win will be between the elite runners in the field, the most remarkable aspect of the Vol-State is the very ordinariness of the majority of the entrants. College students, college professors, truck drivers, doctors, lawyers, housewives, and retired; people from all walks of life, ranging in age from their twenties to their seventies will pit their will and endurance against the heat, hills and humidity of a Tennessee July. Participants will run, walk, or crawl in the effort to finish within the 10 day time limit. Many will be on the road for 20 or more hours per day. With no official race aid stations, the Vol-Staters will have to rely on what they can carry or find along the way. What most of them find is Tennessee’s famous hospitality. Every runner finds their spirits bolstered by words of encouragement. Many a Vol-Stater has been saved by something as simple as the timely gift of a glass of ice-water, or a piece of fruit. The only assistance they can expect from the race is an ignominious ride to the finish, should they decide to bail.

The real opponents at the Vol-State are not the other runners. They are heat, hills, humidity, blisters, cramps, fatigue, hunger, thirst, sleep deprivation, and incredibly sore feet. While the winner will hold the coveted title “King of the Road” for the next 12 months; every runner who manages to reach “the Rock” will receive the real reward. In facing and persevering through the pain and despair, which will stop the majority of those attempting the race short of their goal, the runners who reach the rock will find something inside their selves that they never knew was there. The emotional reward of overcoming such insurmountable obstacles is a memory that will last a lifetime. No Vol-Stater ever forgets the feeling that comes when they finally reach “the Rock,” and join that elite club of Vol-State finishers.

Progress in the event can be followed on the internet:

Landmarks on the course, and their distance:

Dorena Landing, MO ferry landing 0 miles
Hickman, KY old downtown district 2 miles
Union City, TN old downtown district 18 miles
Martin, TN old downtown district 31 miles
Dresden, TN square 40 miles
Gleason, TN high school 48 miles
McKenzie, TN square 56 miles
Huntingdon, TN square 67 miles
Lexington, TN square 92 miles
Parsons, TN downtown 107 miles
Linden, TN square 125 miles
Hohenwald, TN square 144 miles
Hampshire, TN downtown 162 miles
Columbia, TN square 177 miles
Culleoka, TN downtown 188 miles
Lewisburg, TN square 201 miles
Shelbyville, TN square 223 miles
War Trace, TN downtown 233 miles
Manchester, TN square 249 miles
Pelham, TN downtown 266 miles
Monteagle, TN downtown 274 miles
Tracy City, TN downtown 280 miles
Jasper, TN downtown 296 miles
South Pittsburg, TN Tn River Bridge 303 miles
Castle Rock, GA scenic overlook 314 miles



Media wanting any further information can e-mail me at

Or call me at 615-896-1950 (home) or 615-439-7971 (cell)

RD Gary Cantrell

This is a new category we have added. In order for a pair of running shoes to be inducted into the Shoe Hall of Fame, they had to have endured a minimum of 500 miles. This is far more mileage than large shoe corporations suggest for shoe termination. With each pair inducted, we will post a picture with the name of the shoe, it’s brand, and how many miles thus far they have conquered.



Brooks Glycerin 9’s – 2,692 MILES (As of 12.6.15)



Nike Free – 1,701 MILES (As of 12.6.15)



Newton Gravitas – 1,435 MILES (As of 12.6.15)



4th: Brooks Flow – 1,072 MILES (As of 12.6.15)


5th: Nike Zoom Elite+4 – 1,019 MILES (As of 12.6.15)


6th: Brooks Defyance – 996 MILES (As of 12.6.15)


7th: Brooks Infiniti (#3) – 920 MILES (As of 12.6.15)


8th: Brooks Glycerin 11 – 882 MILES (As of 12.6.15)


9th: Brooks Infiniti (#1) – 877 MILES (As of 12.6.15)


10th: Brooks Flow 2: 846 MILES (As of 12.6.15)


11th: Brooks Infiniti (#2) – 783 MILES (As of 12.6.15)


12th: Nike Kyotee – 774 MILES (As of 12.6.15)


13th: Hoka Cliftons – 748 Miles (As of 12.6.15)


14th: Nike Free – 736 MILES (As of 12.6.15)

The Last Annual

Vol-State Road Race

Ordinary People Can Achieve Extraordinary Things

The Vol-State is not just another ultramarathon. It is much more than that. The Vol-State is a journey, an adventure, and an exploration of inner space. It begins with a ferry ride across the Mississippi River, from Missouri to Kentucky, and finishes at “the Rock,” high atop Sand Mountain in Northwest Georgia. What lies in between are 314 miles of the great unknown. From the time the Vol-Stater steps off the Ferry, until they reach the Rock, they are totally reliant upon their own physical and mental resources. For the next four to ten days, in the face of the heat and humidity of July in Tennessee, the Vol-Stater must make their own way on foot, along highways and back roads, from one small town to the next, over hills and across rivers, up mountains and down long valleys, all the while accounting for all of their most basic needs, “what will I eat?” “When will I find water?” “Where will I sleep?”

Success is not guaranteed. There are no aid stations, teeming with volunteers waiting to tend to your every need and encourage you to continue. There are just miles and miles of empty road. Your friends can follow your progress from afar, but no pacers can carry your burden for you. If you do encounter another runner, theirs is the same desperate plight as your own. You will have doubts. Finishing will often seem an unfathomable dream. Your worst enemy may become the knowledge that an air-conditioned ride to your car at the finish (in the dreaded seat of “disgrace”) is but a phone call away.

Many will fail. But, for those who find the steely will and muster the sheer dogged tenacity to overcome the impossible obstacles, and reach the rock on foot, the Vol-State can be a transcendental experience. No words can adequately describe the sense of combined relief and amazement to be experienced at the Rock. No one can explain the regret that this incredible journey has actually come to an end. Former King, Barry Crumrine, probably summed up the Vol-State experience as well as it can be put into words:

                              “I found in myself something that I never knew was there.”

                                                                             From the Last Annual Vol-State Website, 2013


The 2013 Last Annual Vol State Road Race started with a ferry ride across the Mississippi River to Dorena Landing, Missouri. Odd as it was, but fitting for the group of ultrarunners, everyone went ashore in Missouri to run back onto the ferry to cross the Mississippi, and hit the ground running in Kentucky. Well, that sounds good, but actually, only a few hit the ground running. Most just walked off the ferry and continued to walk up the first gentle hill. Then, they ran.

I ran from the ferry until I tired going up the first big hill in Hickman, Kentucky. The hill was steep and led to a great view of old Hickman and the Mississippi River. However, we were only in the first mile of the 314 mile race, so walking up the last half of the hill seemed like a good idea. I ran up this hill last year to no great benefit. This year…a new tactic, which I was sure, would improve the outcome several days later. Ha!

The weather at 7:30 in the morning was comfortable. But, we could tell, it was going to heat up quite a bit later in the day. I wore my trusty Camelbak Octane LR backpack, which I used last year with complete satisfaction. The “LR” signifies a lumbar reservoir with fluid resting in the hip area. That makes it infinitely more comfortable for me, especially when running in the heat. The pack held my essentials and water for the run.

I ran comfortably leaving hilly Hicksman and striding into the long level terrain. It would stay this way through the first day except for a few rolling hills that offered no great challenge. It always seems that I find myself running alone in these types of races. Perhaps, I subconsciously find those gaps in which to run, so I can stay away from people. Antisocial? Maybe. Or, perhaps, I’m so slow that I’m just behind everyone. Whatever.

I felt good in my Newton Gravitys as I strode toward Union City, Tennessee. About the only “plan” I had was to try and run as much as possible without getting totally fatigued causing me to spend too much down time. Hopefully, my sleep sessions duration would be minimal.

Before getting to Union City, I accepted a bottle of water from a man who was checking his mailbox. After greetings and brief conversation about what we were doing (he had seen others running by his house) he gave me the water and wished me luck in my run “home.” It was “home” because the race ended in Georgia, my home state. The water carried me into Union City and higher heat.

Even though the distance was approximately twenty miles, trouble raised its ugly head. I found myself feeling weaker and more fatigued than I should have been. I found Coke to drink which usually peps me up but not this time. I ran on hoping for a change as usually happens in these runs.

It changed all right…for the worse. At one point, upon urination, I had blood in my urine and slight pain when I ran afterwards. I took in more fluids. I rested in the shade and took a thirty-minute nap. That helped for a while, but the problem returned later. I had to repeat the process. This was not good. This was the first day, and I was still under thirty miles. I dreaded to think what lay ahead.

The running, the breaks, the pain continued as I ran toward Martin, home of the University of Tennessee at Martin. I was losing valuable time taking the breaks to make the pain subside. The drinking didn’t seem to help the dehydration problem.

I deduced that I had a dehydration problem by thinking back to the days before the start of the race. I knew I was drinking enough now that I was in the race. I think the problem was that I didn’t drink enough in the week previous to the race and so reached this state of dehydration causing the bloody urine and pain. My drinking during the race could not catch me up to an adequate hydration level. I tell my high school runners whom I coach to make sure they drink water throughout the day so they will not suffer dehydration problems running in the heat once we start the cross-country season in August. Then, I do what I tell them not to do. Great!

After losing a great amount of time, I finally made it to Martin. I was at approximately 28 miles. I was still wondering if I was going to make this thing before the days ran out. We had ten days to complete the 314 miles. I was a turtle.

Then, something happened. Entering Martin, I noticed a man pulling out of a parking lot driving a 1959 Ford Fairlane; I noticed this because that was the kind of car my family had as I was growing up in Trion, Georgia. Anyway, the man stopped right in front of me, asked me if I wanted a cup of tea he had just bought at McDonald’s. Of course, I took it and drank it. I ran on.

After about ten minutes, I noticed that I had no pain and was running a little better. Was it the tea? Did I finally get my hydration caught up to its proper level? Whatever the answer, I ran into the McDonald’s and rested and drank more tea. Running through Martin, I felt a lot better. But, it had taken me into the evening to run 30.9 miles. I wasn’t only a turtle, I was a slow turtle.

The turtle kept running through Dresden, which would be 39 miles. Feeling better but still feeling weak. Dresden is a comfortable looking little town. I try to envision me living in the towns I pass through, and, I think, Dresden may top the list. Putting Dresden behind me aimed me toward Gleason.

Gleason would be my sleeping point in the first day. I ran into town late into the night only to discover a fellow runner, Charlie Taylor, sleeping in a sleeping bag liner while lying on a nice, soft, cement, store front deck. I opted to sleep beside a church and on the grass in my SOL emergency bivvy. It started as a restful sleep but was interrupted by a barking dog that sounded like it was just next door. It seemed to bark continuously. I wondered why the owner didn’t come out and shoot it. After about three hours of sleep, I cranked up again and headed toward McKenzie. McKenzie was where I made it to last year to find sleep the first night. I was behind last year’s pace but still moving forward.

I was feeling weak even though I was confident that I was over the bloody urine and pain. Still, I was concerned about my extreme fatigued state. This hounded me as I trudged toward Huntington in the increasing heat. My legs felt unresponsive with the general fatigue. And, I was running soooo slow.

My thoughts during this section were to get out of the heat, get a motel room and then soak in a tub of ice water. I hated the thought of doing that, but the results proved positive. Running into the center of Huntington, I asked a mailman where a motel was, and he told me there was one about a mile straight ahead.

I ran out of downtown Huntington which was, thankfully, downhill and reached the motel. Once there, I remembered passing the place in last year’s race. Luckily, they had a room available. I checked in, got ice from the ice machine and poured it into the bathtub filled about a quarter with water. I plopped down into the ice-cold water. The sound that any other guests heard was my screaming like a middle school girl as I sunk into the cold abyss. Ugh!

After about twenty minutes freezing my #&*^% off, I eagerly exited the wet pit of hell, dried off, and took a nap. Forty-five minutes of sleep in air-conditioning with frozen legs seemed to make me feel better as I stumbled to get dressed to continue the adventure.

I saw a fellow runner checking in as I left the motel. I did feel better. I don’t think I was running any better, but I did feel better. I took this “better” feeling toward the big town of Lexington. I looked forward to reaching I-40 which would be 80 miles. This would provide another break from the heat and some food and drink. My oasis was the  golden arches where I downed a Big Mac meal with a large Coke. After that, the road. But, the thing was…After a few miles, I would see the Lexington City Limit sign which was a clever ruse making a tired ultrarunner think he was entering a town. Oh, but no! That point was just where the sidewalk started and seemed to go forever before actually getting into the town proper. But, I did get there late in the evening as darkness was swallowing my route.

I took a break and drank two chocolate milks as I watched the local teens cruise around the courthouse. With that entertainment behind me, I left Lexington and ran the hills to the east toward Parsons. I was tired; it was dark; I had 48 miles for the day. Time to find a place to sleep because I wasn’t sure there would be a suitable place between here and Parsons.

A Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall served my purpose. It had a covered area for cars to drive through at the entrance doors. I spread my bivvy on the hard concrete drive under the roof. I didn’t sleep well…My legs didn’t seem to want to stop moving. But, I did get some rest. The night was cooler than usual, and I had trouble staying warm as I tried to sleep. I pulled out my long sleeve shirt from my pack, slipped it on and was a little warmer.

After a night of constantly rearranging myself inside my bivvy in order to stay warm, I finally decided the warming measure was to get up and run. I kept my long sleeve Dri-Fit shirt during the first few miles until I warmed up. A long sleeve cotton shirt would have felt warmer than the thin Dri-Fit, but I survived the cool as the miles warmed me up on the road to Columbia passing through Chesterfield, Darden, and into Parsons.

It was morning as I sauntered into Parsons, which was a little over 100 miles into the race. Well, maybe I wasn’t “sauntering” at this point…more of a jog as I approached Sonic. The Sonics are great places in this race if only because they have the big milkshakes. I sat at a table outside and promptly fell backwards on the concrete as the bench and table fell over with my weight. Three employees ran to my aid sputtering all kinds of apologies. They explained that a lady drove into the table the day before and bent the opposite bench and knocked the table from its moorings. I picked that table to sit for my milkshake. But, the management did give me the shake for free with a Coke chaser. So, I was satisfied.

With a tummy full of milkshake, I headed toward Perryville and the Tennessee River. I took a break at Fat Man’s on the other side of the river. Fat Man’s is a combination restaurant and store. It has a large covered deck beside the restaurant, and I took advantage of this for a rest before climbing into Linden. The stretch from the river through Linden is one of the least enjoyable parts of the race for me. The hills are part of it, the almost non-existent road shoulder is another part. I was glad to get Linden behind me.

Tennessee River at Perryville (Picture taken by Charlie Taylor)

Tennessee River at Perryville (Picture taken by Charlie Taylor)

Then, the long road to Hohenwald. After the hills of Linden, the road flattens leading to a few hills going to Hohenwald. I ran into town and reached the east side. Here, I came to a motel and the temptation of sleeping in a bed after a shower was great. But, I resisted and slept on the ground on top of a small ridge across the parking lot from the motel. A tree and bushes kept me out of sight during the night. I went to sleep after eating two Clif Bars and drinking a Dr. Pepper. This was approximately 150 miles.

One of the most pleasant points of the run was the campground at the Natchez Trace. Last year, Charlie Taylor and John Price introduced the place to me as a great aid station stop. Bill, the campground owner, fed us food that he had and even offered to cook something up if we wanted it. I ate the salads and had endless refills of tea and Coke. This year I was alone upon reaching the place, but Bill took care of me. He cooked me some eggs for breakfast and filled me with orange juice. He asks for no payment, but upon my insistence, he took two dollars and wished me luck. He is surely a friend along the road and is there to help the weary traveler. He is one of the high points of the race.

Hampshire. A very small, postcard town and very friendly. I got to the store too early and had to wait for church to end before the store would open. By the time it opened, a few other LAVS runners were there to eat some sandwiches and drink some fluid. I chose to eat ice cream and drink Coke. After eating, I took a break at the “Mens Club,” which was a big, rundown room in a two-story building. They offered a shower if needed and sofas for a nap. While sitting in front on a bench, I was startled by a piercing Tarzan yell that seemed to come out of nowhere. Upon looking around, I then noticed a sign across the road that stated Tarzan yells for $2.00. I guess someone paid. They also had Elvis hair for sale along with an odd assortment of used items. Quite a place!

US 412 took me into Columbia. There was nothing spectacular or even noteworthy about this stretch of asphalt. I traversed some rolling hills and felt comfortable running through a lot of level terrain. The expectation of reaching a large town like Columbia was the driving force during this section of the run.

I was pretty tired on the south side of Columbia after making the turns through town. At this point, the road took a ninety-degree turn to the left and headed east. I was tired and hungry and was not sure what was ahead in terms of food. I knew I was headed out of town, so I took advantage of the available food in close proximity. That put me in a Mexican restaurant with me as the only customer. I wanted black bean burritos, but, as luck would have it, they were out of black beans. So, a bean burrito meal served the purpose…and it was really good and filling. I felt a lot better and energized after the food, Coke, and rest.

The next point I was looking forward to was the “Bench of Despair” in Glendale. The “Bench of Despair” is an ordinary wooden bench in front of a store that also serves sandwiches and milkshakes, etc. Once there, I decided to take a nap. The store was closed at the late time I arrived. The bench was so named because, as legend has it, several runners would make it to this point; sit on the bench and give up on the race. The store owner learned of this nickname for the bench and had the name painted on it. Now, it is a pictorial part of the Vol State legend.

Me sleeping on the "Bench of Despair" covered by my rain poncho. (Picture taken by Charlie Taylor)

Me sleeping on the “Bench of Despair” covered by my rain poncho. (Picture taken by Charlie Taylor)

After sleeping on the “BOD,” I had an easy run through Culleoka and Mooreville. I stopped at a store and deli located in the big curve in Mooreville. This place looked and felt like it had not changed since the 1940’s, if it had been there that long. Some old men gathered in the back at the tables and talked over the country’s problems. Most of their solutions sounded good to me. They asked me about the run and where I was from and wished me luck telling me what lay ahead on the way to Lewisburg.

Lewisburg was another large town and was about 200 miles into the race. I was treated by finding a Cheerwine drink as I left town on the east side. This Carolina based soft drink tasted really good…I don’t know how much energy it gave me, but it tasted good and was refreshing.

I was on my fifth day of running. I felt a lot better than the first two days. My feeling of staleness and general fatigue in the legs had abated. Now, I experienced the normal fatigue a multi-day race offers. I now felt confident of finishing. The terrain from Lewisburg to Wartrace was fairly easy with some rolling hills and a lot of flat road. I ran through Farmington, Wheel, Bedford, Shelbyville, and into Wartrace at night. Wheel was a place with just a few houses and a church with a large pavilion that had a water pump beside it. The pavilion offered a break from the sun and a picnic table to lie on for reclined rest. The pump water was refreshingly cold. I drank my fill, doused my head and hit the road after a ten-minute break on the table. This would be a good place to camp if I ever got here at a time for sleep.

I slept on a rear porch with a cement floor at the post office in Wartrace. It had a roof so I was satisfied in case it rained during the night. Again, I did not sleep well. It wasn’t the hardness of the sleeping surface that kept me up every fifteen minutes or so. I just felt restless and could not get into a deep sleep. I started to get up and continue to run, but I wanted to wait until the store across the street opened up for the day. Then, I would get some chocolate milk and be on the road again.

Wartrace was 232 miles into the race once I crossed the railroad tracks. I knew I would have some hills leading me out of town. And, when I got to Sixteenth Motel Road, there were some serious hills. I just kept looking forward to getting closer to Manchester where the road would be flatter. I slept behind an abandoned fruit stand last year as I was leaving Manchester. I was ahead of last year’s pace and ran through Manchester in the daylight.

Even with the fatigue of five days of running and restless sleep, I looked forward to the valley I would run through before running up Monteagle Mountain. This was a flat road with lush farmland on each side. It was a valley of green. The small picturesque towns I ran through were Hillsboro, Glen, Ruthledge Hill, Pelham, and Mt. View before the climb to Monteagle. Even though there was a mountain between me and the finish, I could smell the finish line on “The Rock.” Once I got to Monteagle, I sat at Sonic drinking my milkshake and contemplated the rest of the race. It was about forty miles to finish this thing. I would keep going until I finished.

I liked running on Monteagle Mountain, not up it, just on it…that would be along the top where it was basically flat until going down into Jasper. Once on top, it would lead me into Tracy City in darkness. Tracy City seems to be a haphazard town the way the route leads through it. I was glad to get through the Tracy City maze and back on the lonely part of US 41. Here, there was nothing but forest along the road…and darkness. I think  I saw a T-Rex chasing a Brontosaurus across the road ahead of me. They paid me no mind being intent on bigger game or survival. At the finish, I was assured by Laz and Carl, the race directors, that it was just another Vol State hallucination. Just normal stuff…not to worry.

I was nearing the finish in good spirits. I felt good the last few miles crossing the Tennessee River for the last time. I had run through Jasper at the foot of Monteagle Mountain, ran through Kimball and into South Pittsburg. I had run through the night but felt good. I picked up the pace through the rolling hills in the New Hope area. It was hot, but I was not bothered by it. I increased my lead on Ray K through this area.

I was in 6th place in the sole, uncrewed division (called the “screwed” division by the runners) but I didn’t know that at the time. In this race, one can get the feeling of running alone and being detached from the other runners and race directors. A lot of time is spent running by oneself, and the runner may be within a mile or closer to other runners but would not know it. How the runner handles the running in solitude may determine the runner’s outcome.

I struggled up Sand Mountain with its severe climb for two plus miles. It was run and walk to make it up the incline. Crossing into Alabama brought me closer to the top, and I was able to run on in to the finish. Last year, I finished in the dark. This year…daylight.

I turned left and headed due east toward the Georgia state line at Castle Rock. Two stone columns marked the entrance to the Castle Rock Ranch and the state line. After crossing the line, I ran between a row of shades trees until I took another left that headed into the fields and to the “Rock.”

It was a good finish. I was lead to the finishers’ chair, a canvas folding camping chair under a tent. My time was 148:56:16 (6 days, 4 hours, 56 minutes, 16 seconds). I improved over last year’s time by 15 hours, 17 minutes, 39 seconds. I was satisfied with that especially after the trouble I had in the first two days.

Hmmm…I wonder if I can do better next year…

Richard Westbrook

BOOK: RUNNING THROUGH THE WALL: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon                          AUTHOR: Neal Jamison                                                                                                                        PUBLISHER/DATE: Breakaway Books, 2003                                                                                    REPORT: This is one of the most personalized and entertaining books that I have read on the subject of running long. Obviously, from the title, it focuses on ultramarathon distances. That would be any distance longer than the marathon. The first standard ultra distance is 50 kilometers, which is thirty-one miles. For that reason, a lot of the personal stories in the collection will give credence to the 50 kilometer distance.

This book is very good in that it gives personal stories from the normal “Joe” or “Jane” just like you and me who happens to run ultramarathons. The stories center on various slants in the runner’s pursuit ranging from their beginnings, outstanding races, spiritual insights, and their motivation. You will find runners who stumbled into running ultras. Then, there are those who planned their assault on the distances. Like the rest of us, there are those who had a lack of confidence when faced with such monumental distances. Just about all the stories related instances during a particular race in which the runner was convinced that he or she could not make it to the finish line. Some of these instances were true life threatening situations and some were of the “feeling sorry for myself” types. They were all just like those thoughts that the rest of us go through during the same kind of running challenges. Indeed, one of the most striking characteristics of this book is the normalcy of the runners of whom the stories relate.

On the other hand, there are some “supers” involved. For those accounts of the diabetic in his first 100 mile run crewed by his sons and struggling to the race site with a broken down van; or the suicide survivor, depression laden, young lady who didn’t leave her house for months and then went through the gamut of highs and lows in her first ultra but finished on a high, there are the stories from ultra superstars like Tim Twietmeyer, Ian Torrence, Ann Trason, and David Horton. Even in the “super’s” accounts, we can relate to the normalcy that earmarks the ultrarunning scene.

Reading story after story, the reader will begin to appreciate the closeness of the ultra community. Such things like runners slowing to help total strangers get through bad patches in the race, because they have been there before, will stand out again and again as an oddity in the ultra races. The attitude expressed by the runners in their stories will impress even the non-runner much less the runner just thinking about running an ultra event.

Running Through the Wall

The reader will read some of the stories and laugh because you will see yourself in there. Other stories will have you pulling for the runner as you turn to see the outcome. Still others will have you emotionally charged by relating to the intensity of the story and the runner involved. This makes the book interesting to read and packed full of memorable characters. It is well written and easy to read.

Each chapter is a runner’s story. It is preceded by a thumbnail sketch of the runner. This includes their name, age, years running, years running ultras, and their residence. I appreciated the picture of each runner. This gives the reader a visual contact as you are reading the runner’s story. For me, it made each story much more personal, a story with a face.

Don Allison, editor and publisher of UltraRunning Magazine, writes a very good foreword for the book. This gives a good opening door to the stories. It sets the stage for a good piece of work by the author, Neal Jamison.

I highly recommend this book to any runner aspiring to run marathons, ultra races, experience adventure runs, or just looking to improve their running by running longer on their level. It will give you fodder for dreams as well as confidence enveloped in normalcy. You will be glad you read it.

“Behind every runner, there is a history that leads them to the starting line of an ultramarathon, and that history colors the drama that plays out over the duration of the event.”                                      Don Allison                                                                                                                                            Editor/Publisher                                                                                                                                             UltraRunning Magazine

By: Richard Westbrook

BOOK: GOD ON THE STARTING LINE, The Triumph of a Catholic School Running Team and Its Jewish Coach AUTHOR: Marc Bloom                                                                                                                                PUBLISHER/DATE: Breakaway Books, 2004                                                                                               REPORT: If you ever wanted to know just how it is to coach a high school cross-country team, just a regular old team, nothing high powered, the kind of team that is typical of most high schools, then this is the book to read. It will tell you of the life and times of a small team struggling for their identity. While doing that, the identity of the individual as a coach will be clarified among the various tangents contacting this group.

I could identify with the author and his situation being that I am coaching a team that is struggling to find its identity. There are many parallels in the book and my case. I empathized with the author in many situations.

Marc Bloom, the author, writes very well as you will see in his easily readable style. He has written many articles on running and several other books on the subject. His experience with the subject pays off in his work. I have read other works relating the coaching experience, but this is the best.

A unique facet of the book is the spiritual aspects of two different religions. These obvious and subtle teachings affect the coach, the runners, and parents. At times, this causes conflict, while at other times it is the catalyst for success. At all times, it is an item of concern for the coach.

Another interesting and very real conflict is time. The time needed for the coaching and the time needed for family, including an illness of the author’s father, is related by Bloom in a very realistic manner. This is a real concern for anyone who has coached and has a family. Bloom was very astute in relating this throughout the book. He gives us the true picture which requires a great deal of honesty on his part. This one item makes this a great book for upcoming, young coaches to read.

This is not a book to read in order to glean workouts for one to use in coaching their own team. But, there is an underlying philosophy throughout the book that one who is astute enough can see will add immensely to any program. It will give a basic approach and leave a wide range of variation for anyone wanting to pick out information to use in coaching.


In this story of a New Jersey coastal team, one can follow the tale of the different young men working to mold into a team. The coach guides the various personalities through the high points and low points of the off-season and season. He wins some and loses some. He has doubts. He has disappointments. He has success. He deals with academics, disinterest, disparity, and immaturity. He has a knack of recognizing the problems and has the patience to deal with them. This is an important reason for the success of the team.

Read the book if you like running. It doesn’t matter if you want to coach or just know more about it. Even for non-runners, the book is good in its relationships between a teacher and students, in this case a coach and athletes. You can read it as a very good story, or you can read it to find deeper meaning. Either way, it will be one of the best books you will read on running.

“This is where guts and biochemistry meet. The chemistry has been figured out. Guts are another story.”                                                                  Marc Bloom                                                                                                                                                Commenting on a cross-country race

By: Richard Westbrook

Ricahard Westbrook, Trion, GA

Here is mention of Richard Westbrook and one of his many, lengthy bike rides. This was an excerpt from the Trion Times in Trion, Ga. On other occasions he has ridden from his home in Jonesboro, Ga to visit his older sister, Sylvia Bryan, in St. Petersburg, Fl at least twice. He has made the long ride alone, and once with is eldest son, Shane and a runner of his and friend of his son’s, Kevin Graham. Both trips, as with most, he would simply take along a small pack and camp along the way. I am sure there are many other trips to mention that I cannot recall. I will have to ask Dad about them and update this article a little later on, just wanted to go ahead and get it posted.

~ Season

There was a time when I believed that right was the strongest force in the world; and that right defeated wrong every time.  The horseman in the white hat was always victorious over the horseman in the black hat.  Light subjugated dark.  I was taught to make sure I was right before forging ahead, then stick by my convictions, and everything would be for the best.

Time was when I thought I could be the best.  I thought I could win.  It would just be a matter of time.  If I did everything right, worked hard enough, then winning and being the best would be attained.

At one time I thought the world to be clear cut and well defined.  It was easily detectable what was good and what was bad.  Good and evil.  It was pretty easy to determine which was which.  It was as clear as right and wrong.

But, as I grew into the world, blue skies turned to dark clouds.  I discovered that right didn’t always win.  There were forces on the darkside that, at times, were stronger than light.  Good was not always victorious.  Sometimes, good was the victim.

I found that I could not always win.  No matter how hard I worked, I might not win.  Thinking I was right and working hard did not prevent my opponent from being better.  Winning was not always under my control.  There were other forces out there.

I changed as I grew.  I became involved in more and varied pursuits.  That was part of my education both formal and informal.  I learned from a lot of people.  Some of those teachers taught from the church, some taught from manual labor, some taught from schools, some taught from the family.  Whether I realized it or not, learning was happening everywhere.  Living and growing was being a student.

The simple look into life from the simplicity of a child faded.  Things became complicated.  What I wanted to be real truth was but a ray of light into each day.  How much light was determined by things I didn’t understand at the time.  But, more understanding was discovered as I learned, as I grew into the world.

The world gave me people to deal with on a daily basis.  People I had to try to understand.  Some of those people became friends and some became enemies.  Some were just passing by.  Still, good and right and darkness were intertwined in those people.  Discovering which was where was a problem.  Learning to deal with it was a different problem.

Authority was a door I encountered on a more intense level as I matured.  Teachers, coaches, bosses were just a few that presented different problems.  At times, life was less enjoyable because of them, and life was also more enjoyable because of them.  School, college, work, daily life gave opportunities to learn to cull the bright days from existence…to live more in the light than the dark.  But, barriers were always out there.

Change was still happening.  I was alive, and I knew it.  I relished it.  Change was becoming the watchword of the decade when I was in college.  My life grew from the pacific 1950’s into the torrid 1960’s.  I was changing just like everything around me seemed to be changing.

I was latching on to new ideas.  Some of these came from enlightened professors in my classes.  Others came from sources outside the classical educational realm.  I was soaking in new ideas in all the reading I could find.  These reads dealt with educational ideas, recreation, and athletics.  Since I was majoring in physical education and wanted to coach, I was intensely interested in some of these seemingly “off the wall” ideas…because it was a change from the status quo.

Even though there were a lot of things in the 60’s that I rejected, the openness to new ideas in athletics fascinated me.  I had learned the traditional approach; now, I was a child of the 60’s in learning new things.  It was exciting.  It was change.

Time moved on.  The following decades brought stability lacking in the 60’s.  There was less change.  This was interpreted to be a good thing by a lot of people.  I was settled in to teaching and coaching and raising a family.  Surviving in our society.  I became a victim of a changeless regime.  Status quo.

I’m lucky in that I recognized this situation.  I wondered if I would become a fatality of the status quo.  Was I figuratively dying?  I needed answers to questions unanswered.

This scenario happened to a lot of people during this era.  Some buckled; some survived; some thrived.  Those who felt the world had changed too fast and then too slow buckled.  Those who tried to move with the rhythm of change survived.  Those who observed societal changes but chose their personal changes thrived.  They were the lucky ones…or, the prepared ones.  They are the ones who are thriving today as our world once again accelerates change.

Changing fast or changing slow or not changing at all has always presented personal problems to society members.  Within the sea of change, be it fast or slow, is needed a home base, a place of solidarity.  If one has this, then one can face any change that is presented…and, it will be presented.  We hear about it all the time.  The change is perhaps the major stressor in our lives.  On the street, we refer to this problem as “stress.”

Our society is inundated by various methods to deal with this onslaught of change, stress.  We have TV programs that want to teach us how to cope.  Bookstores are loaded with solutions to the problem.  Agencies and organizations exist to help us survive the situation or to survive the problem the situation causes, such as alcoholism, drug addiction, or obesity.  We pay money to buy the secret solution from unproven sources.

It may seem odd to a lot of our society members that our chosen activity cuts to the core of the secret of dealing with the big problem.  Running distance has been referred to “the Western form of meditation.”  The East gave us various forms of introspection and meditation to calm the inner world so the real world could be dealt with effectively.  The West gave us a work ethic that help put our country in the forefront, and gave us individual problems.

In our modern times, the West and our country in particular has given the masses the simple gift of distance running.  This was “jogging” in its earlier formative years.  Now, with our running, we find the best relief from the stressor that change represents. In our running, we have found a way to deal with all the changes our society throws at us in this technological age.

When I go for a run, I again experience a world in which right is the strongest force.  Good is dominant.  Light kicks ass over darkness.  My running simplifies my life no matter how much change is happening.  That simplicity is hand-in-hand with the pursuit of happiness as a life goal.

Running cannot progress if one does it incorrectly.  No matter what, doing it right will cause progression.  Even if one thinks the running is not good enough, it is still right if one is getting better.  “Proof in the pudding,” so to speak.  This correctness carries over into moral bounds.  Running is the right thing for the human body to do.  The conscience is activated through running because of the moral picture of the world that is presented to the runner.

The world of good is opened when I run.  No matter how bitter I may feel starting the run, I see the world as a better place after the miles pass.  I tend to see good things happening and see the beauty in the world around me.  The rhythmical activity causes the brain to tune in to “feel good” thoughts that in turn influence how I see the world.

I am a child when I run.  Running is a seemingly simple action, and that simplicity takes me unconsciously back to “once upon a time.”  There the world is again clear cut.  Happiness is found in the simplicity.  Movement initiates this manifestation.  As miles pile up, the mind is in its base level of existence.  The mind will reduce the world to a simple level.  Running, breathing steadily at an increased rate, muscles repeating the action, the body being stressed in evolutionary means, takes me to a focused level of non-focus to the point that I am living as a human is meant to live.  When I am running, that is easy to see and understand.  It is simple.

That may be why I run.


“Running is the classical road to self-consciousness, self-awareness and self-reliance.  Independence is the outstanding characteristic of the runner.  He learns the harsh reality of his physical and mental limitations when he runs.  He learns that personal commitment, sacrifice and determination are his only means to betterment.  Runners only get promoted through self-conquest.”

Noel Carroll

Vol State 2013 Day 6 Nightly Check-in (map)

Vol State 2013 Day 6 Nightly Check-in (map)

Vol State 2013 Day 6 Nightly Check-in

Vol State 2013 Day 6 Nightly Check-in

Richard was approximately 40 miles from the finish when he last called his wife and said he would spend all night on Monteagle, all up hill. He said he will be VERY disappointed if it’s more than 40 miles. He was around 275 miles into the race. 39 miles to go!

He is 12th overall, 9th invidual runner, and 6th individual/unsupported runner. He hasn’t seen anyone on the course when Jan told him his place. He couldn’t believe it and said he thought he was around 28th place. Haha!

He will probably run through the night and finish some time in the morning. That is good to hear since today the heat was horrendous for all the runners.

Look for the new, and hopefully, final report in the am.