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RUN247 / Running News / Ultramarathon News / “A fitting end” – Barkley Marathons genius Laz Lake’s epic #Lazcon trek reaches conclusion

“A fitting end” – Barkley Marathons genius Laz Lake’s epic #Lazcon trek reaches conclusion

Jonathan Turner
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This weekend saw Laz Lake – real name Gary Cantrell – end his epic trek across America in Foyil, Oklahoma.

Lake, now 70, is the man behind the infamous Barkley Marathons, Backyard Ultras and much more. A genuine ultrarunning trailblazer.

The original aim was to walk from Delaware in the east to San Francisco on the west coast – a distance of around 3,000 miles.

But the revised end point was a poignant and significant one – he had made it to his parents’ graves the day before and then battled on to Foyil, where his father grew up.

In total it was 83 days, 1,716 miles – and over five million steps – of walking.

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End of the road… for now

Those who have followed his journey from the start, which came soon after the conclusion of this year’s historic Barkley Marathons where Jasmin Paris became the first woman to finish the ‘Race That Eats Its Young’, will have been captivated by his tenacity when the odds seemed stacked against him.

Health issues – Lake is battling a number of conditions including a 90% blockage in a carotid artery – and the fact he is six years older than he was when he first completed what is known as a “transcon” (trans-continental trek) back in 2018 all added to the challenge.

Jared Beasley, who has written about Lake for both the New York Times and Guardian and helped crew (support) him in the early stages, has been closely logging his progress and his post on X marked the end of this particular journey.

’70 is not 30′

And writing his his Facebook page, Laz talked through the emotions of the final day…

“once awake there was no excitement that i had only a few hours to finish.
only a profound weariness.
taping my feet wasnt exciting because it was the last time.
it was a source of stress trying to get it right.
i wanted to get it so my toes might not hurt for just a few more hours.
my left wheel assembly had finally cracked last night when i got out of the crew vehicle after supper.
one of the great lessons of the run.
nothing heals during the journey any more.
all you can hope for is to not make it worse.
70 is not 30.

“today instead of trying to avoid more damage to the ankle
the hope was that it would “numb up” after i got going.
either way i knew it was only a few more miles.
i asked myself if it was really that important to reach the andy payne statue.
or could i just call it where i was.

“i knew i couldnt do that.
i had to complete this part of my journey.”

The significance of Andy Payne

The Andy Payne statue he refers to remembers a local Cherokee from Foyil who won the first race across America in 1928 – and the image of Laz making it to that point is the new cover photo on his Facebook page – one ultra pioneer fist-bumping with another.

John Kelly Damian Hall Barkley Marathons 2023 loop three with Laz photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram
Laz Lake – in charge at the 2023 Barkley Marathons [Photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram]

Laz continued…

“approaching the andy payne park i saw a small group waiting.
my crew (jason vore has become my brave left hand)
some people i knew
and some people i didnt know.
i went around the end of the parking lot instead of to the waiting people
and bumped fists with andy.
my long journey was over…

“then i looked for a place to sit down.
after a minute or two of decompression
i noticed one lady was wearing a t-shirt with andy payne on it,
so i commented about it.
i dont remember what i said,
but her answer was;
“he was my uncle”

“what an incredible ending to the journey!
i have heard about the paynes all my life.
it was almost as if they were part of my family.
but i suddenly realized i had never met a single one of them.
of course the paynes my dad knew were also long gone.
but it turned out that 3 of the payne descendants had shown up for my finish.
people who knew the people and places of my childhood.

“i could not have asked for a more perfect ending.
and like so many parts of this perfect journey
(of every perfect journey)
it was pure serendipity.
kyle knapp had come to see me earlier on the trek
and i think he was planning on being there for the finish.
he was talking about this
and a coworker said;
“i’m from foyil…. and my neighbors are named payne…”

“how incredible is this?

What’s next for Laz Lake?

“so now i am sitting here preparing for re-entry.
no more early morning alarms
no more taping my feet
(at least not for a while)
and i am left to reflect on the entire experience…

“a transcon changes you
(even a half one)
i know that the person who bumped fists with andy payne
is different from the one who stuck his walking stick in the ocean in delaware three months ago.
i like to think he is better.
i know he has a different relationship with age
and the passage of time.
instead of feeling disappointed in failing to achieve the goal i began with
there is satisfaction in feeling that i did what i was capable of doing
(and maybe a little more)
i have redrawn some lines
and already am wondering how i can come back
and pick up where i have left off.
if i cannot finish this journey in one piece,
can it be done in several?

“our journey is not over
until we have no more goals.

and i am not yet ready to sit at home and wait to die.

We’ve nothing but huge respect for Laz’s incredible effort – and it sounds like this is a ‘to be continued…” sort of ending.

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.  

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