78: Strolling Jim 40 Mile Run


Manage episode 292285402 series 2680589
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By Davy Crockett The Strolling Jim 40, held in Wartrace, Tennessee, is one of the top-five oldest ultras in America that is still being held to the present-day (2021). It is a road race that runs on very hilly paved and dirt roads, the brainchild of Gary Cantrell (Lazarus Lake). Because its distance is a non-standard ultra-distance of 41.2 miles, the race perhaps has not received as much publicity as it deserves among the ultrarunning sport. But buried within, is a storied history along with a seemly unbreakable course record set in 1991 by Andy Jones of Canada (and Cincinnati, Ohio), one of the greatest North American ultrarunners who most of the current generation of ultrarunners have never heard of before. The classic Strolling Jim 40 came back into ultrarunning focus during early May 2021, when Andy Jones’ remarkable record was finally broken by Zack Beavin, of Lexington, Kentucky. The story of Strolling Jim must be told along with the progression of its famed course record. Who was Strolling Jim? Strolling Jim (1936-1957) was the first Tennessee Walking Horse to become a National Grand Champion show horse for his breed. He was first trained to pull a wagon and a plow until he was noticed by a well-known Walking Horse trainer, William Floyd Carothers (1902-1944), who owned the Walking Horse Hotel in Wartrace, Tennessee. Carothers thought the horse had potential and bought him for $350 and started training him. In 1939, Strolling Jim competed and won at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration held at Wartrace, Tennessee. He went on with a very successful show career around the U.S., retiring in 1948 in Tennessee. He died in 1957 and was buried by his stables behind the Walking Horse Hotel in Wartrace. Idea for a Race In 1979, Gary Cantrell (1954-), of Shelbyville, Tennessee, was an accounting student at Middle Tennessee State University. He was a veteran of eight marathon finishes and wanted to run in an ultra. But at the time, there were few being held in the South. So, he decided to put on his own ultra for his Horse Mountain Runners Club who trained around the Wartrace, Tennessee area. John Anderson, 29, a sub-3-hour marathoner from Bell Buckle, Tennessee remarked, “Gary and I wanted to run an ultramarathon and so we decided to put on one of our own. He got out the maps and lined out a course. At first, I thought we should call it the ‘Idiots Run,’ but I believe Gary came up with a more appropriate name.” They decided to start Strolling Jim 40 in the town of Wartrace, nicknamed the “Cradle of the Walking Horse.” Cantrell said, “The course is mostly hills, and I believe for a runner to finish the race it will be less what’s in the legs and more of what’s in the mind. It is about 90 percent mental. It will pretty much be up to each runner to make it on his own. Runners will have to run with the course rather than at it.” The news reported, “The race will be anything but a stroll. The 40-mile loop begins near the well house which guards the old sulfur and mineral water source near the middle of the town. The course winds through rural Bedford County communities before heading back to the finish line in front of the Walking Horse Hotel. Along the route numerous hills will furnish tortuous entertainment for the ultramarathoners.” Cantrell added, “It’s an isolated backwaters place that has changed little in this century.” He was surprised that many wanted to run the difficult race. “Six or eight doctors will be in the race and that sort of surprised me. You’d think of all people they’d know better.” Inaugural Race Entrants Gary and Mary Cantrell Ronald Moore (1946-), of Hermitage, Tennessee signed up for the race and planned feed on plenty of dates along the way. He said, “I intend to try and blend in with the course and just try to finish. I’ve been looking for a challenge and this course is really an obstacle. I guess I am kind of foolish for trying at race this f...

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