The JIM - Jarmans Invitational Marathon
The 2023 Jarmans Invitational Marathon
This was my 3rd JIM. I had a few years when I couldn’t make it, but I’m gunning to do 5 of these. If you do 5 you get a badass pair of acid washed jorts with “Jarmans” on the rear. This year’s JIM was the first one for my girlfriend Denise to attend and she went all out! Dressed the part and wanted to see all the madness!
As you may have heard this course sucks. It’s 3 miles total up with about 1,500 feet of gain, then straight back down. 5 times for a total of 7,400 feet up and down on the hot gravel road! There are aid stations at the start and top of the mountain. Also there’s some special ones peppered into the course.
[Editor’s note: the mid-race aid stations have evolved over the many years of the JIM, and are a great sign of how the Jarmans Road community has come to embrace this race. These are impromptu aid stops put out by the property owners at the end of their driveways. And then there continues to be the official mid-climb “aid” that has been dedicated to VHTRC’s beloved Ed Cappuccino, who was particularly fond of this race.]
Prep For The Race
Denise came up big here, she got my gear ready during the week and hit up a thrift store for a funny race outfit. I’ve been kind of obsessed with The Joker lately so Denise went all out. I knew the dress shirt would be pure misery out there but you have to wear your Saturday best out at The Jarmans!!!
Since this race has a noon start time I got to sleep in a little. Old Jarmans Gap road where the JIM takes place is about an hour and a half from me. They have you park at the Greenville community center and get a trolly over because parking at Jarmans gets tight. A lot of my friends were out there but I was surprised to see my buddy Erick Kuhlmann. I hadn’t ran with him in about a year so it was good to see him!
The People Of Jarmans
I’m not going to list everyone out there at this race but it’s an amazing collection of crazy asses and I love it. Runners, spectators/hecklers, volunteers. As miserable as this race is it’s definitely the vibe and people out there that make this race such a memorable experience.
If you do this race, get ready for a lot of hilarious stuff the RDs Jimmie and Danton do. The safety briefs of these races are amazing. My favorite part this year was them saying if you get hit by a car make sure you tell them you’re sorry for them hitting you. [Editor’s note: “Danton” is Dan Spearin, and “Jimmuh” is John Andersen]
I was wearing my sleeveless dress shirt Denise made me which was immediately soaked in sweat, not even a mile in. I wanted to keep this thing on for the first loop, although I was on a mission, Denise paid good money for this fine garment.
My strategy for this race is always to run mile 1 then walk miles 2 and 3. There’s a couple parts I run on miles 2 and 3, one is in mile 2 right after a really nasty paved uphill then there’s another part that actually has a sign that says no walking zone.
If you manage your strategy like this, and have some kind of running form on miles 4, 5 and 6 going back downhill, you will finish this race. The rough part of this race is if you go too hard, the bonk is bad. Real bad. You have to be really careful. Some people can pull it off, but my strategy for this race is survival. 6:30 - 7 hours is what I usually aim for. Don’t end up a tragedy out there. Be true to yourself and what you are comfortable doing. If you run the JIM you’ll see a lot of lost souls out there. It’s real easy to do!
I ran with Erick Kulhman Loop 1; we committed to the plan and we hung out with people here and there, but pretty much caught up because it had been so long since we have hung out. The first loop went really well and right before I was done that dress shirt came right off!
I didn’t stick around the aid station long. I just got some stuff, kissed Denise, and got out of there. Erick and I were doing well! The strategy had us feeling good and the weather really wasn’t too bad as there was a breeze the whole time. I feel like this loop was pretty uneventful, just got it done. We talked a lot about everything possible, in order to distract us from what we were doing: climbing the gravel nightmare. As hard as the climb was we pushed conversations to the brink, digging deep to find anything to pass time. It worked. I really don’t remember much of this loop.
This is where the fun started. Before we headed out, we got some ice cream from Dr. David Horton, and Denise tried on the “Sweh” Jarmans denim 5-time finisher thong. We then scrammed.
Erick brought another go-to JIM move to the table. At mile 1 there’s this cool guy who has ice cold seltzer water. We grabbed a can and went uphill. We straight up love that dude!! He was so cool for hooking us up. We headed uphill drinking the seltzers, and hand off the empty cans to another pop up aid station at about mile 1.5. Up. Up. Up. We do what we can to make it to the top. This is where the magic of the the aid station at mile 3 happens. They start to give out ice pops and ice cold water it’s amazing and almost unreal I feel like it was almost too nice, but I am not complaining because it is rough out there!
We head down and just run as fast as we can without wasting too much energy.
I do something really weird in this race. I look at loops 4 and 5 as just one long loop to make things go by faster. Erick was like “let’s just try to get out of here quick,” and he was right, you don’t want to mess around at the aid stations at this point. You really need to be out there getting it done. We went to our seltzer friend, and Erick and I each drank 2 seltzers each. It was so amazing. He also had some Fritos, and I ate many. We drank the seltzers and hiked up to the top, then got more ice pops and cold water to fly down on. Erick was like, “let’s just immediately turn around when we get to the aid station and get back out there to get it done.” Only way we stop is if they have something amazing there like pizza or something.
There was pizza and we grabbed it and ran eating it. We looked hilarious. To add to this oddity one of the front runners coming back in and was like “the train is going to be here soon! Push it!!”
We looked at each other and we’re like “huh?!?” But we didn’t want to get caught and we pushed it. Eating our pizza. Then sure enough we heard the train in the distance we just made it!! That guy helped us! [Editor’s note: just around the bend from the base of Jarman’s, their is a section of railroad tracks that cross the road. Several times during the race, a train will roll through. If a runner’s luck is bad, that may mean being caught on the wrong side of the tracks for a period, depending on the length of the train.]
So to wash down the pizza we had to get some more seltzer, also our new buddy had Carmel M&Ms! My god, those things are delicious. I ate many and we headed out. The 1.5 mile aid station was giving out Fireball shots, and Erick said he would take one on the way back down. I wasn’t touching that stuff. We make it up to the top and get some water and thank everyone up there for helping us all day. Then head down one last time…
Erick takes off! I just kind of maintain and get passed by a few eager runners trying to finish the last 3 miles. I was not trying to race anyone. I was running but not going to go any faster than what I was doing.
I got to the finish and was met by Denise, Jimmie, Danton and the whole crew! I finished right at 7 hours and I am totally cool with that.
I don’t drink alcohol, so I had Erick chug my beer, I crushed the can with my foot and then my amazing finisher medal was made! Best in all of ultras! [Editor’s Note: At the finish, the runner fishes an ice-cold Bud Light or Pabst Blue Ribbon out of a cooler, throws it down, then crushes the can. Danton then bangs an awl through it to fish a lanyard through, and voila! you have your finisher’s medal. Burp.]
If you haven’t done this race you really have to, it’s a must do experience. Also I’ve laid out a solid blueprint here if you want to go for a finish. I’m not qualified on getting faster times here!
I really hope Denise runs this with me next year. It’s one thing to hang out, but you really have to be out there to get the full experience. Broken glass, poison ivy, mud, sadness, pondering bad decisions. I love this race. Thank you to everyone who was out there. It’s such an amazing vibe, and so many locals from the area come out and want to be a part of this thing. Never change Jarmans!!!
Big shout out to Tom Green for finishing this nightmare 💙
Editor’s Closing Notes: Among the many quirks and charms that make up the JIM is an early start option for those over 60. In order to maximize the misery factor of doing five laps of this 6-mile road, the RDs not only have an early August race date, but then start at 12:01 PM, so that the runners can fully embrace the suck by running through a summer’s afternoon of heat and humidity. But if you are over 60, you can start at 8 AM. A handful took advantage, including the remarkable Tom Green (captured on the course by fellow competitor Keith Knipling in the photo at the top of this report). Tom, and his fellow VHTRC and sexagenarian Wayne Kline were the final two finishers; Wayne in 9:45 and Tom in 12:41.
Martha Wright broke the 60 and over age group record, which she had held previously, and did so while starting at noon. Well done, Miss Martha! Heather Dougherty was the first VHTRC finisher, and first female (5th overall) in 5:36; other club members in the top 15 were Kate Fletcher, Aaron Ellison, Kathleen Cusick and Jack Kurisky. Of 72 starters, 52 completed the full JIM, and other club members to finish were: Keith VanGraafeiland, Justin Faul, Matt Smythe, Tonnie Warfield, Jana Fridrichová, Christiann Rogers, Stuart Brown, Tony Taylor, Tom Calla, and Keith Knipling. Other, such as Tom Simonds, Vickie Bryant, and Alan Zwart, were satisfied with their completion of the “Slim JIM” or three laps of this course.
Results for the 2023 JIM