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Laz Lake’s trek across America back on track after ultra community rallies round Barkley Marathons genius

Jonathan Turner
News Director
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Laz Lake – the man behind the infamous Barkley Marathons, Backyard Ultras and much more – has had a rollercoaster of emotions over the last week on his own incredible trek across the United States, which has been dubbed #Lazcon on social media.

Lake, real name Gary Cantrell, is aiming to cross the country on foot from Delaware in the east to San Francisco on the west coast – a distance of around 3,000 miles.

As if that wasn’t a challenge enough, Lake, who has recently turned 70, is battling a number of health issues including a 90% blockage in a carotid artery.

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Up against it

He started the journey at the start of April, shortly after this year’s historic Barkley Marathons which saw Jasmin Paris become the first woman to ever finish the event.

But it’s been a struggle in recent weeks, meaning he’d started to fall behind schedule (23 miles a day was the initial target), leading to the real possibility of it coming to an early end.

Laz explained on his Facebook page: “The carefully hashed out crew plan collapsed because i cannot cover enough miles.
no ones fault
(except mine for not realizing how old i really had become)
sandra [Ed: Lake’s wife] has been plugging holes
and crews for later in the run have been moving up to keep me going.
as far as i know i only have a crew thru thursday.”

Jared Beasley, who has written about Lake for both the New York Times and Guardian, helped crew (support) him in the early stages. And his recent posts on X (formerly Twitter) highlighted the predicament to a wider audience, with Beasley adding: “And Laz is 400 miles from reaching Oklahoma and the graves of his mother and father. My hope for him is that he can somehow make it that far.”

Power of community

But in true ultrarunning style everyone rallied round, with Beasley’s next post on X revealing: “The dogged #lazcon has made it to The GATEWAY ARCH of St. Louis, Missouri. State number eight.

“And, thanks to the #ultrarunning community, he’s got enough new crew to get him through June!! 🙏”

Writing on Facebook at the start of June, Laz himself reflected on what he’s achieved so far:

“Day 61 completes two months on the road.

“1,282 miles;
26 inches at a time.
three million and seventy seven thousand steps….

“It doesnt sound like much, but that is really far!”

Lazarus Lake Barkley Marathons
Laz Lake at the Barkley Marathons [Photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram]

‘Emotional whiplash’

And he also spoke of the moments when he thought the trek might be over, saying:

“quite a day of up and down emotions.
by this morning i had reconciled myself to just walking to st louis and then deciding how i wanted to go home.

“while i was tracing the multiple remnants of this route into st louis i heard from sandra that she thinks she has pulled together enough support to get me to foyil.
that would take in my visit with belinda, my parents graves, the school where my dad played ball, and the andy payne statue….

“all the way along old route 66.

“a lot of lifetime connections on being able to travel that part of the run.
but i almost got emotional whiplash
after reconciling myself to the end this morning
to have renewed hope by the afternoon!”

“i must have been inspired
because i reduced the projected finish from late on september 11
to early on september 11!”

“now i have to find something in these old legs to take on the ozark plateau.
i am looking at about 350 miles of small mountains
but mountains never the less!
then another 50 or 100 miles of flat plains.
i am not as cocky as i was leaving delaware.
my body has let it be known that it has gotten old.
and only has to give what it has to give.”

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  

THE SBRX Show

In episode 1 of our new SBRX Show we sit down with ultra runners and coaches Kim and Jayson Cavill to get their take on the Barkley Marathons and triathlon & trail running gear reviews, training tips and more

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