Gary Cantrellaka laz lakesays he hopes to set a “new standard” in virtual races when he kicks off his latest multi-month running event on May 1. The Great Virtual Race Across the Trace is a 1,000-km challenge that invites participants from around the world to cover a virtual course between New Orleans and Nashville by the end of August.
The virtual route is based on the Trace trail, a route Laz says was traveled by Indigenous populations thousands of years before becoming a popular trade route for settlers known as the Kaintucks.
Laz, race director of the Barkley Marathons and creator of the Backyard Ultra format, says the Trace’s history offers rich material for a more immersive virtual race than has been offered before.
“We want this to have not only the logging miles and keeping track of your place, but to bring some of the fun that goes with an actual journey run,” he wrote in a recent email to past and current race-series registrants. “As you pass the different points of interest along the way you will get emails about where you are traveling. History, geology, scenery, a variety of tidbits that at least I think are interesting. Fun facts that you did not know.”
This year’s race is the fourth in the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee series that Laz introduced in 2020. Launched amid the sweeping cancellation of live running events due to COVID-19 restrictions, the series looks to have the momentum to outlast the pandemic.
Laz says he’d like his latest virtual race to act as a gateway to real-world exploration.“I am really excited about seeing this get off the ground, and hoping it sets a new standard for virtual journey runs,” he says. “I want people to come away after they reach the state capital in Nashville feeling like they almost really were there every step of the way!”
The cost to enter the Great Virtual Race Across the Trace is US$35 plus a $3.50 sign-up fee.
You can find sign-up details and more information about the race at https://gvrat.racing/