It was on this day, the first day of January in the year of our Lord, 2018, that the 12th running of Dirk’s Fat Ass 50K took place. Each year, a figure of legend, “Old Man Dirk”, challenges runners to crawl out of bed at an ungodly hour on New Year’s Day to spend their last day of holiday vacation battling uncertain weather and ill-advised hang overs for the glory of running 31 miles, with no prize, and no ultrasignup statistics. Some say that Dirk is immune to cold and fear, that he is Buri, the primeval man of Norse mythology who had no parents but rather was created “by a cow named Audhumla. As she licked the salt blocks of Ginnagagap, [into] the shape of a man”. Others say he is one of the White Walkers, and still others say he’s a dang swell guy who makes swank chicken and dumplings and serves the running community by being a great pacer at the middle-half marathon.
But I digress.
On this day, the temperatures were 6 F. Yes. 6. The winds were howling and the fear of hypothermia was real. And yet, the runners came. A rag tag group of Divas, Cows, “RIF”ers, Boro2Squarerers, and Nemos – no men (free of all running affiliations). They showed up in blankets, mismatched spandex, and wore cowls. There were 26 brave souls who toed the line and only 2 who finished the full 50K. A Badwater master and a Bull-headed man (my hubs)!
The course is simple. Runners start from the home aid station located at the General Bragg Trail Head of the Murfreesboro Greenway. They run a figure-eight loop that takes them for a 4ish mile quest through the hallowed Stones River Battlefield, back to the Bragg Trail Head, and then a 6ish mile out and back to Cannonsburgh Village along the smoky Stones River. Complete the full figure-eight and you have a completed a 10ish mile Dirk. Do it three times, and you have a 50K. The course is mostly flat and all paved. What makes the run difficult to complete is not the distance, but the sweet siren song of the Bragg Trail Head aid station.
Each year, runners pay no fee to enter Dirk’s Fat Ass 50K. The only thing required is a culinary sacrifice made to Dirk himself. He demands cakes, pies, chilies, donuts, beer, and bourbon. This buffet is laid out in tribute to the runners’ suffering and available to participants each time they pass the aid station – which if you complete the whole distance is 7 times. Dirk also summons forth a fire from the bowels of the Earth to create a fire pit which warms the haggard runners. When you pass the Bragg Trail Head, the Siren’s of “Warmth, Comfort, and Rest” call to you. And many will answer the call. Each year, only a few finish the distance, but all appreciate the challenge and the fellowship around the fire.
This year, two runners silenced the Sirens and completed the run. The Badwater master ran with smooth stride and fire in his eyes. He wore a mantel of frost and knew no fear of elements or exhaustion. He ran with purpose and killer instinct. He ran with some bitchin’ sexy spandex tights that made the Sirens take pause. The Bull-headed runner could not quite keep pace with the Badwater master but was completely oblivious to the Sirens, focusing mainly on cookies and puppies. He ran with a “here to unheard of” singular focus, layered with a strange patina of ice and sweat, and imbued with a fierce desire to finish the distance after 2 previous failed attempts. Men of legendary stature.
Is any of this true? Meh . . . trueish. And besides, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that on New Year’s Day, 26 runners braved the cold to find fellowship in frost and fire. So next year . . . will you be with us and earn your way into running legend?