Today is the first day of the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee (henceforth referred to as GVRATN) which seems as good a time as any to launch the fundraiser.
We know that money is tight for a lot of people at the moment, but Jack suggests a donation of £10 - a penny for every kilometre. He's planning on running four kilometres today, or as I like to think of it he's doing 4p worth of running. Tomorrow he's doing a virtual marathon (42p) to launch the Louise Michel Sports Club. Lots of launches!
I say we, because while Jack is doing the running I will be doing the hard work of updating you on which virtual ditch he's sleeping in each night as well as some interesting streetview images.
Bloody hell everyone! We pitched our initial target pretty low because we know a lot of people are having a difficult time financially...but you smashed that target in three and a half hours! I will put on a stretch goal once Crowdfunder will let me.
Jack successfully ran his 4.22km this afternoon and is feeling pretty good for his marathon tomorrow.
Due to the vagaries of the American road system and state lines being in funny places, the race starts in Arkansas in a village called Anthonyville. It looks like a pretty typical picture of rural American poverty - little houses with cars in the yard - and unfortunately there's not much on google that means I can illuminate life there. However, it is set among wide open fields, which on a good day look like below - roughly the location Jack will be sleeping tonight.
Tomorrow he heads to West Memphis and then across the river in to Tennessee and the city of Memphis itself. While he runs I will do some research (aka google Memphis and maybe look at some Zillow listings along his route). Hopefully I will also work out how to increase the fundraising target, so please keep sharing and check back for some exciting Tennessee content over the next four months!
I spent all day researching a post about West Memphis and Memphis and crowdfunder has eaten it. So instead have a picture of Jack finishing his first marathon in 3 hours and 32 minutes, beating his goal of 3.58 and therefore beating Sarah Palin.
Here is a video by Waxahatchee of a song written about crossing the bridge between Memphis and West Memphis. She's going in the wrong direction but you get the idea.
Here is a story about the Sanitation Workers Strike that brought MLK to Memphis, his death and the after effects of both that continue to be felt today - click here
Here are the recollections of Bayard Rustin and his partner Walter Naegle on his often-minimised involvement in the Civil Rights movement - click here
And here is a video of B.B. King, legendary blues musician who cut his teeth playing on both sides of the river, playing to the inmates and guards at Sing Sing Prison:
There was a lot more but *shakes fist* crowdfunderrrrr!
Tonight Jack is sleeping on the side of Route 40 to the north of Memphis. The next few days will be rest or light exercise so I will amalgamate his progress later on in the week.
TOTAL KM: 96.4
KM THIS WEEK: 48
Since you last saw him on the side of Route 40 there has been a long-winded kerfuffle about maps. We were using an illicit map as a kind of placeholder until the official one got fixed, which it has been this week. Turns out Jack was not on Route 40 at all, which is why no-one should depend on counterfeit goods.
It has taken him longer to recover from the marathon than he expected. That is correct, he expected to bounce back from a 26 mile feat of endurance that leaves your body feasting on its essential reserves. He’s been taking it easy this week with some short runs and walks, but has done enough to move him on out of Memphis.
On his way through Memphis Jack ran along Peabody Avenue which is as good an excuse as any to tell you about the Peabody Hotel. The ducks that enjoy the Peabody Hotel foyer fountain are specially selected and trained. They live in a penthouse apartment on the roof and enjoy their own personal concierge. There is a daily procession from the apartment to the fountain and back again. See inside the duck apartment here (you will need to move the view around because you start facing a wall).
I've spent a lot of time on Zillow looking at classic American monstrosities, but instead have a look at this cute house on Cooper. Jack ran right past!
Memphis is famous for its food, including its own style of BBQ. We’re planning to use the barbecue/smoker to make some Memphis ribs in the next couple of weeks. We’re also planning on cooking some other Tennessee delicacies including Banana Pudding, Hot Chicken and Moon Pie as he moves along the trail. Here is a picture of Central BBQ, a popular Memphis restaurant on the route.
From Midtown Jack joined the Shelby Farms Greenline, a foot and cycle path that runs from Midtown through East Memphis, through Shelby Farms Park and ends in Cordova.
The Greenline runs along the bed of an old railway line and ends at the old Cordova Train Station.
Cordova mainly appears to be full of Mini-McMansions but so many of the listings are foreclosures I got sad and stopped looking. Oh no, I lied, I kept looking and what? are? these? light fittings???? Buy this horrible house, get two free bears!
Out of Cordova to discover that in Tennessee they farm pylons
I went to show you the view of Jack’s sleeping verge for this evening and found this fella instead.
TOTAL KM: 127.0
Jack is back on it this week and has been putting the miles in. He's been running down Highway 64 (wide, flat, green, unchanging) and is past Laconia, which is really just a picture of rural Americana to me - there's a one pump gas station, piles of logs, some trucks, an antiques store and a roaming dog that seems totally unbothered by the google car. I'd like to think that someone here would take pity on a sweaty Jack and give him somewhere to sleep for the night.
Tennessee's Native Peoples
One of the first things I did when I started researching Memphis was to look at whose land it stands on. The land was peopled by Chickasaws when colonialists arrived. There's an excellent article here about the role of the Chickasaw people in the creation of Memphis. The Native American population was removed from Tennessee following the Indian Removal Act and the Chickasaw Nation now exists in Oklahoma. There are no state-recognised tribes in Tennessee today, though many are seeking recognition. Here is an in-depth history of the native population.
Lazarus Lake and the Barkley Marathons
The run that Jack is doing was created by Lazarus Lake, a veteran ultrarunner renowned for his hardcore trail plans. This week we watched an excellent documentary about his most famous race, the Barkley Marathons. You can rent it on Amazon for 99p. It's an excellent documentary that really gives you some insight in to how weird ultrarunners are as a species (Jack: they look like mutants. Me: they look like you. Jack: no, they are who I aspire to be). It's also a great portrait of Lazarus Lake as an imaginative oddball who really has found his people. We recommend it.
I took a week off but Jack did not. He has now run 312.6 kilometres and is closing in on the town of Ethridge. I’ve been waiting for this, because Ethridge is AMISH COUNTRY. While many tourists idealise the simpler life of Amish people, their separation from society, strict gender roles and limited education is a fertile breeding ground for abuse. If you want to hear about life in (and after) a Tennessee Amish community you can listen to Michelle’s story here and here.
This is as good a time as any to remind you that Jack is running this race to raise funds for the Abortion Support Network, a group that helps people access safe abortion care if they live in a place where law or circumstance doesn’t allow that. This is made more difficult by travel restrictions due to the pandemic, as well as increasingly stringent measures put in place by states who have been looking for the opportunity. You can read more about abortion in Poland during the pandemic here.
Just south of Ethridge lies Lawrenceberg, once home to folk hero and Tennessee Congressman Davey Crockett. There is a large state park named after him just west of the town, which also includes a segment of the Trail of Tears. It looks like a pretty good place for a swim...
(photo credit - you can buy a nice card of this)
I used some of my time off last week to smoke and barbecue a pork should in the traditional Memphis style. It was delicious.
This week I will make a traditional Tennessee banana pudding to mark Jack passing south of Centerville TN, the home of the Annual Banana Pudding Festival. We have also made our peace with the fact that we will not be able to buy hominy grits here, so next week I’m planning to make a ‘shrimp and grits’ with polenta.
Here is Jack's ditch for the night, just west of a church.
Until next time,
Laurel and Jack
Long time, no update. I could make a lot of excuses but since you’ve already given us your money there’s probably no need.
Since I last wrote less than a month ago, Jack has added 362.2k to his total and is on track to finish the 1000k in mid-June, well before the end date of 31st August. He’s currently considering extending his 1000k to 1000 miles. Sigh. I have a lot to catch up on.
The first and most important thing is that the Tennessee GOP have forced through new abortion legislation, banning abortions where a foetal heartbeat is present (usually between 6 and 8 weeks). If this is struck down by the courts then the bill is written in a way that would then require multiple further appeals to bring the abortion time limit up to anything even resembling reasonable.
Closer to home, people are having to travel across Europe to seek abortions due to restrictive laws in their own countries. Here are recent stories about accessing abortion in Malta and Poland. Despite changes to the law in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, access to abortion is still difficult enough to require travel to England for terminations. There is absolutely no reason that anyone should be travelling to access essential healthcare in the year 2020, but they are and that is why we’re fundraising for ASN.
The second most important thing is that I made the banana pudding mentioned in the last post. Vanilla biscuits, vanilla custard, bananas and meringue. It had a typically American amount of sugar in it, making it inedible to me. Jack needs the calories though so he munched his way through the whole thing.
After leaving Ethridge he ran through Pulaski which visually has little to recommend it and historically is the birthplace of the 1866 iteration of the Klan. There have been three different stages of the Klan, from the original group founded to sow fear amongst newly freed Black people during Reconstruction through the multi-level marketing scheme of the early 20th century to the various racist grifts today, most famously the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. You can list to an excellent two part podcast on the history of the Klan here - Part 1 & Part 2. Slow Burn are also producing a series profiling David Duke (founder of the KKKK) at the moment which is a horrifying but fascinating listen. As a palate cleanser, why not listen to this story about Black men who took up arms against the Klan in Louisiana.
If you think that the Klan is a thing of the past, why not look at this map of hate groups in the USA collated by the Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map.
From there Jack ran down Route 64 to Fayetteville. The countryside is changing as he runs west, slowly developing hills many of which have been cut through for the convenience of the automobile. In Fayetteville he was lucky enough to run through the town itself rather than skirting the edges on the highway. I enjoyed streetviewing my way through but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the lack of walls around many American cemeteries. It seems so odd and informal to just have a field full of gravestones with no formality. And how do they know where the unconsecrated bit is for the sinners? Anyway.
I enjoyed this row of shops.
North-East of Fayetteville is Lynchburg, TN, home of the completely average and inexplicably famous Jack Daniel’s whiskey. Despite the picture you may have of Jack Daniel, the Master Distiller who created the famous whiskey was in fact a formerly enslaved man called Nathan Green.
Jack doesn't get to visit the Lynchburg theme park though as the route dips South East and off the highway for a while. Luckily that gives me a bit of time to focus elsewhere….specifically…NASHVILLE
Hello everyone – once again, opening with an apology for lack of recent updates. For the first time I’m (Jack) writing this one myself. Basically, as the pandemic and lockdown have bedded in, and work has returned to something resembling normality, the seemingly endless free time we “enjoyed” a couple months ago has dried up, and writing updates kept getting put off – or just forgotten. Running over an hour every day hasn’t really helped with regards to time!
But please be assured that lack of updates doesn’t mean I’ve given up! Far from it, in fact, on 11 July (it really has been a long time since an update!) I complete the 635 miles (1022km) across Tennessee, with a nominal placing in the event of 2763rd, out of approx. 16,000 entrants. A normal reaction to this would have probably been to take a break, relax a bit, and bask in the success, so obviously I have not done any of this, and have decided to (virtually) turn around and begin running back across TN, and extend the goal to 1000 miles in the original time scale. As at 16/08/20 I am well on track to do this, standing at 944 miles with 15 days to go. I also received this ridiculous belt buckle as my medal for completing the original distance. Obviously, I love it, and equally obviously, will never actually wear it.
I don’t quite have Laurel’s ability to write out well research deep dives into TN history on locations I’ve passed, but we have made sure to enjoy the TN speciality of hot chicken on the journey, which traditionally comes from Nashville.
I also virtually passed Chattanooga (an important historic transport hub, and site of a recent important unionisation effort by the United Auto Workers at the Volkswagen factory there – which failed when the political establishment went all out to stop it, and was widely viewed by the US labour movement as a way to get a toehold in the largely non-union South) and Knoxville (a strong centre of abolitionism in the run up to the Civil War).
In the real world, while many of my runs have been plodding out mileage on a fairly limited selection of local routes, I’ve had a handful of more interesting ones – crossing the South Downs to the river Ouse, then down to Newhaven and finally along to Seaford, apparently running past the abandoned Sussex village of Tide Mills - I’d love to pretend I took some time to take in the sights of the ‘Hamlet of Horror’ – but by this point in the run my body was objecting, I was almost delirious, and I totally missed it. More recently while on a brief visit to Wiltshire, I went to do a trail run, excited in the break from the recent 30 degree C+ heat, which took an ‘interesting’ turn when farmers lack of respect for public access footpaths saw me having to crawl under 2 separate electric fences, shortly followed by a storm descending, the rain taking out my phone which had my only map, and having to try navigate my way back to the village I was staying in, having just arrived the previous night. This was topped off with lightning strikes directly around me, and finally getting back to discovered that lightning had in fact hit the house we were staying in, and destroyed the TV(!).
Anyway, I’d like to end with a huge thank you to ASN for sending me this great ASN running top (a proper technical running top, not just cotton!), which I love, and has led me to receive multiple solidarity raised fists from strangers about Brighton (‘and then everyone cheered…’ &c &c).
Abortion access continues to be restricted and under attack across the world as the pandemic continues (and with certainty beyond this, sadly), and their solidarity is vital in defending reproductive rights and necessary medical procedures. Please consider further donating if you can, whether through this fundraiser or directly, every penny is important.
Thanks everyone - looking forward to a rest at the end of August (altho it won't be for long, as my galaxy brain has signed myself up for Brighton marathon 2021 in April)!