Author Gary Cantrell

Gary Cantrell writes the “View From the Open Road” column. Gary has written for UltraRunning more or less continuously since his column “From the South” first appeared in Volume 1, Number 1 back in May of 1981. He is perhaps most well-known as the founder of the Barkley, a trail race in eastern Tennessee. (Although some would comment that it isn’t really a race, and others would add that those aren’t really trails.) He is also the founder of the Strolling Jim 40 Mile and periodically organizes a 314-mile run across Tennessee, the Vol State Road Race. He is currently the race director of the Backyard Ultra. In the real world he works as an accountant.

Footprints of an Ultrarunner

We cannot all have the talents of elite runners, but there is nothing that prevents us from approaching the sport with the same professionalism. You will leave your footprint on ultrarunning, one way or another. Leave the footprint you want those who follow to see.

How to Finish Your Own Barkley

The secrets to completing the Barkley, or your Barkley, are not about diet, equipment or your crew. You must learn as much as possible about the course you are facing and prepare yourself to eliminate wasted time. Most importantly, you must maintain the effort even when success doesn’t seem possible.

Gary Cantrell on Rules

Rules; who likes ’em? Nobody.

Who needs ’em? Everybody.

Running ultras is supposed to be fun. The last thing we want to deal with is having a bunch of rules to worry about. Unfortunately, ultrarunning is practiced by humans. And, without rules, some of those humans are bound to take liberties with what might seem innately obvious.

The “Trail” Wins the Barkley Marathons

We should have known better… The 13 starters were indicative of what would transpire. The fact that Barry Barkley, the race’s namesake, had to work and missed the event. The failure of the temperature to reach above freezing during the race – both the weekends, before and after, it had reached into the 70’s. Most of all, just knowing the nature of the Boundary Trail, we shouldn’t have even tried. But we did.

The Ultrarunning Calendar

The calendar was my first running “tool.” When I began seriously training, a simple wall calendar provided a handy place to record what I had done. These days, the old running calendar has become a part of social media. I think the value still distills down to the same essential ingredients: the numbers and the compulsion to improve them.

Whether There’s Weather

No one watches the long-range weather forecast like an ultrarunner. Whether we are planning some long training run or preparing for an event, nothing weighs as heavily on us as the forecast. Of course, it really makes little difference if we are headed to a race. Having invested our children’s inheritance in the entry fee, we’re going to go no matter the weather.

The Night Before

What am I doing here? And why did I decide that this was the race to “go for it?” Now I just wish I were at home between my own sheets with hyperactive bladder and bowels and cold sweaty feet and hands. Most of all, I wish that tomorrow held something other than an early rise and a day of exceedingly painful effort. Ah, well. close the eyes, breath deeply, and please, please, go to sleep.

The Borg

As best I can tell, the GPS mile is somewhere between eight and nine tenths of a mile as measured by a steel tape, a wheel, a surveyor or even a laser beam. Even at a race held on a paved, certified, one-mile loop, the race director was accosted by runners during the event, swearing that the loop distance was far more than a mile… their GPS measurements proved it.

For The Challenge

It is the number one answer to the number one question we get as ultrarunners… “Why do you do it?”

“For the challenge!”

The answer sounds so glib that it might come across as a throwaway line.

But the truth is, there are many nuances to the challenge of running ultras.

Habits Or The Trick Of Running Every Day

There really is no big secret to improve our results as ultrarunners. For all the time and energy we expend on nutrition, gear, cross training, and other peripheral aspects of the sport; in the end our results are a direct reflection of our training mileage. And the biggest obstacle to accumulating the mileage necessary to achieve the results we desire is inconsistency.

Getting Started

There seems to be a consistent demand for how-to articles on ultrarunning. Newcomers to our joyous sport eagerly seek advice…

The Bigger They Are…

From the house it looked just like snow. For 36 hours, billions of tiny bits of ice had poured from the sky. By the time it finished, everything in sight was covered by a six-inch sheet of ice. No matter that I had listened to the unmistakable sounds of falling ice for a day and half, it looked like snow, dammit.