A few months ago I signed up for my first virtual run. For those of you who do not know what that is, allow me to explain. Often a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, etc. will give the option for participants to sign up for the race but are not required to toe the starting line. For instance, they can “sleep in” but still show support for the cause the race is supporting. Sometimes these races even provide a “virtual runner” a medal and souvenir t-shirt allowing the virtual runner to participate on their own time. Being one who enjoys running with others, I typically participate in person. However, I could not show up in person for the 3rd Annual Cades Cove Loop Lope and thus I registered as a virtual runner.
The Cades Cove Loop Lope is the only footrace that takes place inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so it is immediately special. I miss the Smoky Mountains greatly as Darwin and I would spend our vacation time there almost every year before we started to travel. Last year we spent several days in our beloved Gatlinburg, TN before starting our Blue Ridge Parkway Cycling Tour. Finding out that I could help support my first National Park love and run at the same time, seemed like a great idea.
This past Sunday morning was race day. I got up early before the sun was up and although on a different time zone, I tried to think of all the other runners doing the same. Waking early, layering up for the cold, dawning headlamps, and heading out to Cades Cove via bus. The race day excitement they all must have been feeling! The thought of being apart of a limited number of participants with permission to run in the park free from the worry of cars and tourists seemed so enticing to me. Not to mention the fact that each participant was running through history, SO COOL!!
These thoughts stayed with me as I started my run on the Arizona Trail, the complete opposite environment than my fellow runners in Cades Cove. Yet, although we were over a thousand miles apart, we were all still running together and helping to raise money for the continued preservation of a very special place. As I ran my three-miles I thought of the beautiful “smoke” of the Smoky Mountains, the historic cabins, the smell of damp fall leaves, the colors that surely surrounded the runners in the cove.
When I hit my three-mile mark the sun had fully risen. This run felt extra satisfying knowing that it was benefiting more than just me. I also felt I wasn’t just running by myself but at least 750 other people were on the other side of the United States doing the same. I know that some people may not participate after signing up for a virtual run sporting their medal or t-shirt regardless but I honored my commitment and it made my morning and run so much more meaningful. I felt connected to one of my most favorite places even though I’m so far away.
My Book: Mini Misadventures
An Old Blue Ridge Parkway Post: