So lets talk about the GVRAT this year (Great Virtual Race Along the Trace)
Trace? What Trace????
After three years and three meaningful courses across Tennessee, I was struggling to find something right for this year. Something Fun, something special, something that spoke to me…
and something that was a thousand kilometers long. I studied stagecoach roads and indian trails. Everything from Cumberland Gap to Highway 1. But I just could not find a route the right length, without it being something contrived.
And the RAT doesnt need to be something contrived. The RAT needs to be something special.
And then magic happened.
I was exploring routes for upcoming journeys I plan to make. I love historic routes, and on this particular night I was looking at retracing the foot journey of the “Kaintucks”. The Kaintucks were early settlers in what is now central Tennessee and Kentucky. They would collect together a year’s worth of goods and build a barge to float down the Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio, and Mis-sippi Rivers to Newawlins. After selling their goods they would walk back up to Natchez Mis-sippi and then follow an old indian trail known as the Natchez Trace to Nashville. During its heyday more than 10,000 Kaintucks (along with an assortment of other travelers) walked this very route EVERY YEAR!. But they were hardly the first to go that way, the Trace had originally been created by herds of buffalo migrating from the Mis-sippi River to salt licks around where Nashville is today. The resulting track had then been used by the original human inhabitants for about 10,000 years before the first European (a French explorer) set foot on it. It hardly faded after the Kaintucks’ time had passed. In 1801 President Thos Jefferson designated it the first National Road in what is now Mis-ssippi, and initiated the first improvements to the ancient trail. Millions of feet had trod the route before me Walking in their footsteps was going to be something special.
Laying out the route was easy. Leaving Jackson Square in Old Nawlins and crossing the Ponchatrain Bridge (Which I actually have done on foot during the Mardi Gras Marathon many decades ago) I was going to wind up to Natchez on back roads (just like the Kaintucks) and then take the Trace, Now a National Scenic Highway) to Nashville.
The distance that popped up on my screen at the end was like fate….
After months of head scratching, cogitating, and searching, the answer had fairly slapped me in the face. A magical course. With tens, maybe hundreds of thousands (hell, maybe millions!) of years of history. Trod by millions of feet before ours….. And with its roots in Tennessee!
The Trace is still in my plans for the real future. But my blood courses faster to think about moseying up it virtually this summer…. with a few thousand of my best friends!
For anyone interested in benchmarks, the average traveling time of the Kaintucks was about 50 days; Nawlins to Nashville. A little less than 13 miles a day. While you still have 123 days to finish in regulation (5.18 miles per day), you can choose to try and beat 50 days for a special award! Now I ask you, what other race offers you the opportunity to race the pioneers over a known course with an established time standard?
I will have to talk to durb and naresh, but it seems to me like there should be an extra special award for anyone who can beat the kaintucks. What do you think???
And I bet NO ONE ever turned around and did it straight back before.