The Return of the Graybeards

Once again, over Labor Day Weekend of 2017, The ultramarathoners will descend on Fred Deadman Park in Manchester, Tennessee. Led by a contingent of wizened warriors, a couple of hundred of America’s finest footwarriors will circle the famed Deadman Mile for days on end, culminating in the grand finish and banquet at noon on Labor Day Monday.

In a slight departure from the previous iterations of the ARFTA, all runners over 48 years of age will be allotted a number of hours equal to their years of age in which to accumulate as many miles as possible. All the kids, 48 and below, will compete over the final 48 hours of the race. The winner will be the runner with the most miles accumulated by the finish. In contrast to most ultras, where the old guys must settle for a place at the rear, if they can make the time limit at all, the ARFTA is dominated by the superveterans of the sport. Last year 6 of the top 10 finishers were over 70 years old. With the additional time allotted (last year the shortest time was 24 hours), some of the kids might do a little better in the competition, but the old guys and gals are not going to make it easy. The skills may have diminished with the passing of the years, but the fires of competition still burn bright.

Of course it is not the competition which has made this event an instant classic. It is the stories. In the perfect setting of a one mile loop through the park, today’s ultrarunners have the opportunity to spend time with the legends and heroes of the long ago past of the sport. And the old guys and gals have the opportunity to rekindle old friendships (and rivalries) and to rehash the old days. The stories they have to tell are not tales immortalized on the internet, instead they exist only in the memories of those who were there. For all the hundreds of miles that are logged, and the fierce battles sometimes waged for position, it is the celebration of life atmosphere that has made the ARFTA a must-do event.

We rent the entire park for the duration of the event, and among the features of the race are: Hot meals served every 6 hours (this is not aid station food, but fine southern cuisine cooked up by the ladies of Patch Manor.) Vegetarian and regular options are available, and additional meal plans may be purchased for crew members. Ample food is provided so that a mealtime rush is not necessary, hot food should be available at any time you wish to eat, the selection just changes every 6 hours. Real indoor bathrooms located at several places on the course (the value of which cannot be overstated in a multiday run!)

Accommodations are available at a full range of motels within 1 mile of the park, for crews, or runners wishing to sleep in a “real bed.” Ample camping is available on site, with prime camping spots situated around the Deadman Mile. There are a limited number of 4’ by 8’ “cot spaces” inside the air conditioned Ada Wright building. These are allocated by age, with runners allowed to claim a spot 1 hour before their scheduled start. We have some sleeping pads available, but the most comfortable setup is to bring your own cot. (If you are under 60, it is unlikely that any of these spaces will remain available by the time your age group joins the race.)

There is a facebook group for the ARFTA:
Or you can e-mail any questions to me at
Any runners over 70 years of age with financial limitations precluding their entry should e-mail me, so that we can work something out. This is your day(s) in the sun, and we want to see you here! Last year we had 28 starters over the age of 70. Twenty Five of them logged in excess of 100 miles. However, you do not need to aim for such a lofty goal, if you do not wish. It is perfectly all right to just come to share the weekend with your peers.


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