Amelia Orton-Palmer has never been to Tennessee, but over the last few months she’s been running across the state during The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. The virtual race took place from May 1 to Aug. 31, challenging people to run 1,000 kilometers, just over 621 miles, which equals the distance from the southwest corner of the Tennessee to its northeast corner.
When Orton-Palmer first heard about the GVRAT from a friend, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to complete the challenge. “I thought, oh my gosh, there’s no way,” she said. “I’d have to run five miles every day.”
Orton-Palmer, 66, moved to Salida about a year ago from Idledale after retiring from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where she worked in the endangered species program. Her favorite distance to run is a half-marathon, and it was the Run Through Time races that helped her fall in love with Salida.
At the time she heard about the GVRAT challenge she hadn’t been running as much as she used to, but she said, “it’s hard to resist a challenge; I decided to go for it.”
So she started strapping on her running shoes and hitting the road.
“It was hard at first with aches and pains,” she said. “Walking and hiking were allowed too, but I wanted to run as much as possible and I gradually kept increasing my distance.”
Normally she said she loves to run on the trails, but said she had to be realistic and stick to flatter runs for the challenge to get the mileage in.
“I just took it easy,” she said. “It wasn’t about pace, it was just about the miles and the joy of it.”
In July, Oron-Palmer completed the 1,000k challenge. Then she kept going and ended up running more than 1,000 miles during the challenge.
“As the race went along, new goals started popping up,” she said.
One challenge was to run 800 miles before Aug. 31, but she said she knew she could do that one so opted instead to try the 1,000-mile challenge.
“It’s not a challenge unless there’s a chance of failure,” she said.
During the last month of the challenge, Orton-Palmer ran 10 miles a day. Her favorite route was along CR 160 and CR 163. “I love that run out on 160,” she said. “It’s gorgeous and I can stay on the shoulder.”
During the challenge, Orton-Palmer said she didn’t have any “zero days,” meaning she logged some mileage every day. She ended up finishing the 1,000-mile feat in 115 days, completing the challenge eight days before the finish.
And she’s still running. She’s also thinking about running the marathon at the next Run Through Time, which would be her second race at that distance.
“The thing I learned is you can do far more than you ever think you can,” she said. “I’ll always fall back on what I learned from this race. We’ll always have trials and tribulations. This race has been like a metaphor on how to be resilient in life. Running is always pure joy; the hardest part is getting out the door. There wasn’t a single run that I didn’t enjoy.”
She also wants to visit Tennessee now.
The virtual race had 22,702 participants from more than 70 countries participate. Orton-Palmer said the leader was on his eighth trip across the Volunteer State.