Davy Crockett’s Running Frontier

I like to Run Insanely Long & Crazy Distances                                                                                                             Pony Express Trail 100

Over the years, several races of 100 miles have claimed to be the toughest ultramarathons or footraces in the world. Those were great marketing slogans, but those races must have never met Barkley. Those races with their high finisher rates of at least 50% don’t come even close to Barkley’s finish rate of about 2%. The Barkley Marathons, held in rugged mountains in Tennessee, is the toughest 100-mile race in the world. It was the subject of a 2014 film “The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young” that can be viewed on Netflix. This is how it all started. . . .

In 1978, Gary Cantrell (later also became known as Lazarus Lake), an accounting student at Middle Tennessee State University, was a tough marathon runner with eight finishes to his name. He even finished one marathon after shotgun pellets struck him in the legs during a race. (The Jackson Sun, November 11, 1979, 2).

Cantrell was interested in stepping up to run an ultramarathon, so in 1979, he and his fellow “Horse Mountain Runners” created their own ultra to run, Strolling Jim 40-mile Run in Wartrace, Tennessee. It was named after a famed horse, and became one of the oldest yearly ultras in the country. This was Cantrell’s first experience at creating a tough race.  He said, “Six or eight doctors will be in the race and that sort of surprised me. You’d think of all people they’d know better.” (The Tennessean, May 4, 1979, 47). continue reading…


With recent public cases of ultrarunners being disqualified for cutting courses, there has been many shocked and angry discussions on social media about the topic. I’ve had deep feelings and thoughts on this topic, as I was directly impacted by one of these cases for nearly three years. I’m ready to share some of these thoughts. First, you must understand that cheating in our sport has been happening for decades. Many of us have just ignored it. Some race directors have very quietly disqualified runners caught cutting courses, letting them continue their practices at other races. A few courageous runners and race directors have refused to let these cheaters corrupt ultrarunning competition and have taken the hard road to confront the problem head on.

Cheating in the 1980s

cpCheating reared its ugly head in ultrarunning in the early 1980s. In 1980 an elite 100-mile runner was disqualified for cutting the Metropolitan 50 course in Central Park, in New York City. Allegations were raised by witnesses seeing him cut courses at other races. It was suspected that he had been cheating races for years by cutting courses, skipping loops at night but still getting them recorded, and by other means. This runner’s cheating ways were made public and three years later he took revenge on his primary accuser by assaulting him during another 50-mile race in Central Park. The enraged person came onto the course around mile 9, chased the runner, screaming verbal abuse, and tried to trip the runner multiple times. When that didn’t work he socked the runner hard in the collar bone. The runner went on to finish in 6:14.

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The fastest 100-mile ultrarunners during the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s


I am always drawn toward the stories of the early pioneers of ultrarunning. I think it is important to take time to appreciate the history and accomplishments of the runners who paved the way before us. The birth of the 100-mile trail race has been attributed to Gordy Ainsleigh, who in 1974 wanted to see if he could run a 100-mile horse race in California, the Western States Trail Ride, on foot, instead of riding a horse. He was successful, finishing in 23:42, proving that a person could run 100 miles in the mountains in less than a day.

But ultrarunning, including 100-mile races, did not start there….

This started out to be a blog post, but turned into a free online book.

Download the entire book (PDF) here: Swift Endurance Legends

7,000 downloads since May 3, 2017

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ken3I’m very sad to hear that Ken Young passed away on Saturday.  I wrote the following summary of his running accomplishments in my online book Swift Endurance Legends.

Ken Young, of Petrolia California, was an accomplished runner. But he impacted running in America far more by collecting running results and creating running statistics. He grew up in Pasadena, California and attended high school in Phoenix, Arizona. As a youth he loved running and math. He ran a 10:10 two-mile in high school. In college he quit the cross-country team after one year because of his heavy course load. But in the late 1960s after reading an article about the benefits of running on health, complete with numbers and statistics, it struck a chord with him and he started to run while attending Arizona State University. continue reading…

The journey to becoming an ultrarunner has many varied paths. I personally never dreamed to be a runner of any kind and in fact most of my life, pretty much despised running. But along these unexpected paths, running somehow evolved. This story is mostly for me, to look back and understand where I came from, but it also may be of interest to others as they too become an ultrarunner.  Perhaps this is my runner memoirs.  It is a attempt to bring together many of my experiences and lessons learned over the years. Recently updated (2/18)

Full book, download PDF here: My Path to Ultrarunning  to read off-line. 276 pages, 19 meg. 16,500+ downloads to date.  

To be continued…


It was just announced that Nick Marshall is the 2017 inductee to the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame.  He was one of the elite 100-mile runners in the late 1970s and early 80s. Here is a chapter about Nick from my free online book, Swift Endurance Legends. Nick helped me extensively with this book to help preserve the history of 100-mile ultrarunning.


Nick at Washington Monument, 3 minutes before his first ultra

Nick at Washington Monument, 3 minutes before his first ultra

Nick Marshall, of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania has finished 100-milers across a span of more than 38 years. In addition to his running achievements, he left a huge mark on early ultrarunning through his efforts as a historian and record keeper.

Nick started running marathons in 1973. He realized that the longer the race, the better he could compete. He said, “I was motivated by a simple curiosity over a basic question: How far can you go?” He set his marathon PR of 2:41:15 in 1975 at the Harrisburg Marathon. continue reading…


The Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail is an amazing 27-mile smooth trail that starts near Echo Reservoir Dam and travels to downtown Park City, Utah. It is maintained as a state park and is 22 miles of smooth dirt and about 5 miles asphalt pavement.

In 1849, coal was discovered in Chalk Canyon, a community was established, and it eventually was named Coalville. In 1873 a rail line spur was completed from Coalville to Echo to transport coal to the transcontinental rail line. In the mid-1860s, silver was discovered in the canyons near Park City (known then as Parley’s Park City.) The first silver ore was shipped by wagon to Echo in 1871 and then taken by rail to Salt Lake City for smelting.


Park City Union Pacific Depot

In 1880 the rail line spur was extended to Park City and used to transport silver ore from the mines to the rail line in Echo. In 1927 as construction began on the Echo Reservoir and Dam the rail line needed to be relocated higher. In the early 1960s, skiing took hold in Park City and in 1965 the rail line was used for “Ski Trains” that came from Salt Lake City, to Ogden, to Echo, and then to Park City. The final Ski Train ran in 1971.


Train on the rails near Echo Dam in 1985. I parked my car exactly here,

In 1989 the rail line was abandoned. The rails and ties were removed and the bed deeded to the State of Utah Division of Parks and Recreation. continue reading…



The treadmill. Love it or hate it? They were invented back in 1818 to help prisoners cure their idleness. In those early years they were used for punishment and certainly in modern times they are still viewed by many as a way to punish yourself. In the late 1960s, my dad built a treadmill (without a motor) to exercise on. It was an amazing difficult machine to get moving and made no sense to me. Most trail ultrarunners despise the treadmill and consider using them as wimpy when you could be running outside. However many years ago I discovered the value of doing workouts on the treadmill to improve my footspeed and increase my mental strength. I’ve shared my views and experiences in a chapter of my running book at: http://www.crockettclan.org/ultras/treadmill.pdf

The furthest I had previously run on a treadmill in one session was 34 miles in 2013. On that day I hit the 50K mark at 4:31. That run included steep inclines, climbing about 5,000 feet along the way. I knew that some serious ultra long-distance speed was possible on the treadmill but I never was motivated to try running 100 miles on the crazy machine. But in my quest to reach one hundred 100-mile finishes, I discovered a virtual race being organized, the Dreadmill 48. This event allowed the runner to choose any day in December and seek to run 100 miles or more in a 48-hour period. I thought it was a great idea, a way for me to get another 100-mile finish without leaving home. If sucessful, it would be my 96th 100-mile finish. continue reading…