Starr's Mill and Lake, Peachtree City, GA


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"Across the Years is the original fixed-time multi-day running event celebrating     
the New Year! Runners have 24, 48, 72 hours or 6 days to complete as much
distance as possible. Each runner is free to walk, stop, eat, and sleep
whenever they wish, but the clock is always running!"
~ Aravaipa Running homepage for the event

Across the Years (ATY) was Jim's goal race for his ultra-distance walking comeback in 2018 and he met his goal of completing 100 miles in under 48 hours. He had more than five hours left on the clock but he'd met his distance goal and was more than ready to stop.

Good job, Jim!! Remember, he just walked and did no running. It's pretty amazing how far you can walk, and how fast, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other and don't take too many breaks.

Here he is a day later with his hard-earned buckle and participant's shirt:

After completing 106 miles in 70 hours at A Race for the Ages (ARFTA) in September and 100 miles in under 47 hours at The Endless Mile in October, plus some shorter distances at three other ultra events between March and November, Jim believed he was as well trained as he could be, considering he just started back walking long distances early this year after a hiatus of seven years with no ultra running or walking.

I chronicled this history and his first five events this year in the December 1 entry. In hindsight it appears his training walks and organized events prepared him very well for ATY.


This year's event features a six-day race that started on December 28 and ends on January 3, plus multiple start dates for 24- and 48-hour races during those six days. All races begin at 9AM and end at 9AM on the chosen dates.

Jim registered early enough to have a choice of dates when he wanted to start his 48-hour race. He picked a start date of Friday, December 28, ending on Sunday, December 30. We were happy that our friends Anne and Matt Watts also chose that time period for their 24- and 48-hour runs.

Matt and Anne walk by RV Row (my term) on his second day
and her first day on the course.  (12-29-18)

Many runners like to literally run "across the years" at ATY so they choose dates that allow them to be on the course at midnight on New Year's Eve. Race organizers have fireworks and quite a celebration to ring in the New Year.

We've done that previously but decided this time to be done and gone by then so we could avoid the crowd. The race has gotten larger since we did it last.

We ran and volunteered at the 24- and 48-hour events at ATY in 2007, 2008, and 2010 when it was held at Nardini Manor in Buckeye, AZ, and volunteered in 2011 when the event moved to Camelback Ranch in Goodyear, AZ (next photo):

That's our friend Anne Watts in the white jacket.  (Dec., 2011)

The race attracts a variety of ultra-distance folks ranging from pedestrians like us to runners of all ages who are hoping to set new state, country, or world records -- a virtual all-comers ultra-distance event.

Fortunately, we still know lots of the runners who participate at ATY. There are so many ultrarunnning newcomers since we stopped doing ultras that it's been nice to see some familiar faces at ARFTA and ATY this year.


This is the beautiful venue where the Chicago White Sox and LA Dodgers do their spring training. It's essentially one very big park, with lots of lush grass, flowers, trees, and shrubs, a lake and other water features, sculptures, and smooth dirt and crushed gravel paths. The ATY course winds through the landscape for just a bit over one mile.

This diagram from the Aravaipa Running website shows the course layout:

You can see a larger version at the link above.

The one-mile ATY course loop is the dark blue line. The red dot is the main aid station at the start/finish area. The orange dot is the secondary aid station. I added a blue dot to mark the approximate location of our camper in the large south parking lot.

There are several baseball fields; the largest is at the upper left of the diagram.

One of the perfectly manicured baseball fields close to the ATY course

The course is 85% dirt/grit and 15% asphalt or concrete and ranges from about 8 to 20 feet wide.

Here are some photos I took of the attractive landscape along the western side of the loop the afternoon before the race began. The number of non-participants is limited on the course during the event, largely to prevent congestion through this more narrow, scenic section:


The sign says, "Beware of flying balls and bats!"


I walked about seven laps with Jim between 2-4 AM the first night but didn't take photos in the dark.

The early morning hours before sunrise are probably the hardest for any multi-day runner/walker, which is why I suggested to Jim that I go with him then. I'm no night owl but I enjoyed being out there in the dark with fewer runners on the course.


I don't think either of the major league baseball teams was using the ball diamonds or parking areas while ATY was on-site for a week so participants, crews, volunteers, staff, and spectators had plenty of room to park not only their passenger vehicles, but also RVs and tents during the event.

Part of the very large south parking lot; the course is at far right.

That's a big plus for a race that has grown in recent years and lasts up to six days -- runners have to take rest breaks and sleep somewhere, and not everyone wants to use a cot in the nap tent provided by race management. Sleep time is limited to only three hours in the nap tent so others can use the cots, and the nearby warming tent isn't for any sleeping.

Participants who set up only tables, canopies, and/or tents usually congregate in the large grassy staging area on the north side of the loop course near the start/finish.

I took this picture the day before the race when runners were just starting to chose their spots. Most of these tents are ones that Aravaipa rented to runners:

Yup, Davy met his goal of running his 100th 100-miler! Jim walked with/near him on and off the first night.

Runners who want to sleep in an RV or their vehicle have plenty of room to park on the other (south) side of the loop in the HUGE parking lot. If they get there early enough, like we did, they can park their vehicle right next to the course:

That's our truck and 5th-wheel coach by the green dot, backed up to within a few feet of the course.

This year all those spaces were taken by the second day. Part of the reason was that some of the very first people who arrived parked their RVs parallel to the course, not perpendicular. They probably didn't realize so many people would be using RVs this year.

We knew we'd take up too much room if we did that so we went farther past them and parked perpendicular next to a U-shaped formation of two trailers and a Class A. Then a Class C came in on our off-doorside and also backed in. Fortunately, most of the remaining RVs in the lot that came in after us also parked perpendicular to the course.

You can see in the next picture seven campers that parked parallel to the course; they took up about a third of the total space right by the course:

One of the changes for the 2019-20 event is requiring RVs to park perpendicular to the course so more runners can be close to the track.

Other people, including later arrivals, can park a little farther out where it is quieter but still relatively accessible to the course. We moved farther out the afternoon of Day 2 before Jim finished his race to make sure we weren't blocked in the next morning when we wanted to leave. More and more vehicles arrived that evening and on New Year's Eve:

Nature abhors a vacuum, so our space was taken rather quickly by an incoming trailer (at green dot in the picture above). They lucked out because it was probably the only track-side spot left at the end of Day 2.

When we were here in 2011, the first year ATY used Camelback Ranch for the race, we were volunteering, not running or walking the event. There were only a few RVs that year -- I could count them on one hand -- and since we didn't need to be right next to the course, we parked at the far end of the lot and well off the path.

I took the next picture on New Year's Eve from about where our camper was sitting that year and you can see how few vehicles were next to the course on the busiest day:

Same parking lot on Dec. 31, 2011

That photo doesn't even show how very large this parking area is. It looked pretty empty that year, even on the day most runners were on-site.

What a difference seven years make. This year I counted over 60s RVs from camping vans and truck campers to big Class A motorhomes in this parking area on Sunday morning before we left and more were coming in for New Year's Eve on Monday.

I took the next picture on Saturday at sunset. I couldn't get all the campers and other vehicles in one wide-angle shot, the parking area is so big:

There was still plenty of room for at least a hundred more RVs to the left, but not close to the course.

People who were here last year said the number of RVs tripled or quadrupled this year. It's a real perk for runners and their crews, and not possible at most multi-day events. We've really appreciated being able to park our rolling residence at a few race venues over the years.


And here's another good idea used by Ann Trason (a legend in the sport), Amy Mower (a rising star), Marie and Andy Boyd, and some other runners and their crews.

The ones mentioned and another runner we didn't previously know occupied the four RVs closest to us:

L-R:  Amy Mower's rental Class C (her husband and 2nd crew person, Sue Scholl, say hi to Ann Trason
walking by in blue jacket), then our Cameo, then Ann's rental travel trailer, then the Boyd's rental Class A.

We hadn't even thought about runners flying or driving to a race in their own vehicle, then renting an RV from a local dealer and using that as a base during the event. It seemed to work well for these and other folks. It's an idea we might use if we sell the Cameo before we stop attending races. That way we could take our dogs, too.

Note that pets are allowed in this parking lot but not on the course itself or other places along the course at Camelback Ranch. A lot of folks in RVs had their dogs with them.

We had Casey and Holly, our Labs, with us since they travel everywhere we go in the Cameo. I kept them off the track when they were outside but they were close enough to see people go by (lots of runners enjoyed seeing their happy faces and wagging tails!) and Jim loved getting some puppy love occasionally:

He just lights up when he sees them. Holly and Casey were a nice distraction, but not too distracting for Jim to reach his goal.


Having an RV right by the course was so convenient for both Jim and me. It took him 17-20 minutes on average to walk each mile, depending on whether he stopped at the aid station on the north side of the course for food or drink or used one of their porta-potties.

It was faster for him to eat snacks and drink fluids at the table he set up by our camper. He used the aid station more for solid foods at meal times.

It was easy for Jim to let me know what food, fluids, or supplies/equipment he needed on a particular lap by either calling me on his phone a few minutes before he got there (he carried it most of the race) or asking me to have it ready when he came back around the next time.

During the day I often sat at the edge of the course next to or behind the camper and watched folks go by. It was fun to say hi to friends and encourage everyone.

Here comes Matt Watts on Day 1 of his (and Jim's) 48-hour race. Matt is in the white shirt:

The dogs and I could also see the action out the back bay windows of the camper when we were inside.

At night, Jim was more on his own. I needed adequate sleep to be able to haul the Cameo for about six hours to our next destination right after the race; we knew Jim would be too tired to drive then.

We never heard any complaints from other participants about all the RVs lined up along the course. If anything, I think each year there will be more and more of them as runners see how convenient they are, especially during the longer races.

This runner had almost all the comforts of home, just steps from the course.

Parking an RV right there and having something more comfortable than a tent or canopy may be TOO convenient for some participants, however, if they get sucked into the warm vortex and stay too long, thereby missing their distance or potential mileage goal! That's a real temptation, especially if it's cold or rainy.

I noticed Jim went into the Cameo less often after we moved 100+ feet off the course . . .

Continued on the next page:  race day(s)

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, Casey, and Holly-pup

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2018 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil