Jennings, King complete 347-mile Last Annual Heart of the South race


FIG, N.C. — It is described as a vacation without a car.

The 347-mile Last Annual Heart of the South race began in Fig, N.C. and ended in Castlerock, Ga.

Sixty-three of the 82 runners who entered the race finished it with in the 10-day time limit — with Ryan King and Bob Jennings of Piqua being the first two finishers from Ohio.

Jennings was 31st in eight days, five hours, 45 minutes and 25 seconds and King was 32nd, finishing just 22 seconds behind him.

For King, it was his second straight year of completing the race.

“I think the experience from last year really helped me a lot,” King said. “I just was better prepared for everything. My feet are in much better shape than they were at the end of last year’s race. I think I just had a better understanding of everything.”

He brought Jennings along with him this year.

“I followed the race last year, just from Ryan King and what he did,” Jennings said. “I thought it was something I might like to try an do.”

The day before the race, the contestants park their vehicles in a cornfield atop Sand Mountain in North Georgia and board tour buses.

The only thing they know about their destination is that it will be between 300 and 350 miles away.

After an overnight stay in a hotel, they are bused to the start the following day.

“They always drive us through a long tunnel to the starting line,” King said. “The person who runs the race (Lazarus Lakes) knows a great deal about the area. We don’t always take the straightest line, but he takes through a lot of historic places. There is a lot of history involved. It is a very unique race.”

Jennings said he was pretty prepare for everything.

“The only thing is you don’t find out where you are starting until the night before,” Jennings said. “You try to plan out the race as much as you can to where your stops are going to be. If it works out you are close to a motel, you can stay there. We did that a couple times.

“A lot of nights we slept in the lobbies of post offices or on the porches of churches. Most of the small towns have a lobby in the post office that is always open.”

Both runners were happy with their performances.

“I was almost five hours ahead of my time from last year and that was a shorter race,” King said. “And Bob (Jennings) did great for it being his first year.”

They ran with two other runners that King met at last year’s race.

“Our plan was to do the race together and that is what we did,” King said.

Jennings said that made things easier.

“There would be a different person in front all the time,” he said. “When one guy got tired, a different guy would go to the front and kind of pull us along.”

Jennings said he would be probably try the race again at some point.

“If you asked me at the finish line, I would probably have said no way,” he said with a laugh. “But, after you think about it, the challenge and the great experience, I probably would try it again sometime.”

King said it was likely he will participate again next year.

“I haven’t committed to it yet,” he said. “But, I would say there is probably a good chance I end up doing it again.”

And the King family isn’t done with these type of races yet this year.

“My wife Amanda will be running in one in a couple weeks that is similar to this in Tennessee,” King said. “I guess you could say the family has caught the bug.”

After all, how can you top a vacation without a car?

Sports Editor Rob Kiser can be reached at [email protected]

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