Headlamps illuminate a wide sandy track and suddenly, there’s something massive hanging in the air above – tons of pitted sandstone rocks arching into the night sky. It’s one of the natural arches carved out of the rock that runners will find on the 100-mile tour of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area at the No Business 100 Mile Trail Ultra.
Awesome moments like these are just one of many that runners will experience while tackling the demanding 100-miler that begins in southern Kentucky and drops into Tennessee, while enjoying a wonderland of rugged forest, waterfalls, natural arches, streams and rivers.
Just before the Great Meadow aid station, runners find themselves on the banks of a wide river. This crossing, with a couple of hiking poles, is a big ask at 3 a.m. after 80 miles. Once across, they discover, after wrestling with the “why don’t I just quit here” demon that lives inside the warm tent at the aid station, that they must go back across the river on the same slippery rocks.
The race’s odd name comes from a community of farmers that settled in the wilderness along what became known as No Business Creek. The race website includes this quote, “Some say those who came here looked over the harsh, unforgiving landscape and thought they had no business settling here. While others made it clear, outsiders had no business in these parts.” The community of No Business hit its heyday in the late 1800s and lasted up to the 1960s, but eventually vanished back into the wilderness despite once boasting a church, school, post office, general store and grist mill.
The journey along the Sheltowee Trace and the John Muir Trail is beautiful from end to end. Runners keep close to a cliff’s edge for miles on the Grand Gap Loop near the Angel Falls Overlook, with a spectacular view over the Big South Fork Cumberland River. The climb up Peter’s Mountain follows a stream bed with obstacles including rocks, streams and steep trails for several miles.
The race finish across the bridge that soars above the valley back at the Blue Heron Mining Community makes this the most memorable part of the race. Runners exit the forest trail that they’ve basically been on for over 99 miles and look out over a narrow wooden walkway that shoots into the open air. Directly below is the grassy valley floor and treetops of the forest as far as the eye can see. At the end of the bridge is the finish banner.
After a sweet jog way up in the air, finishers receive a belt buckle that reads, “No Business.” My first thought was that maybe it should read, “All Business.”