Outdoor World

The infamous murderer’s prison escape that inspired a near-impossible ultramarathon

Petros, Tennessee( CNN) Fifty years ago, a career criminal named James Earl Ray traveled from Atlanta to Memphis, stalking the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights president was there to energize air strikes of sanitation laborers asking for better working conditions and higher pay. Ray was there to assassinate him.

Fit Commonwealth: Around the World in 8 Races will air three times on Saturday, May 26, between 1 and 6 p. m. ET and one time between 5 and 6 p. m. ET on Sunday, May 27.

While King stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel( now a museum for peace ), Ray attained his sinister purpose with a single hit from more than 200 feet away.

Over the next two months, while on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List, Ray was on the run, traveling to Europe on a false passport. He was eventually caught at London’s Heathrow Airport. He pleaded guilty to avoid a jury trial and the capital punishment, was sentenced to 99 years and sent to Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in eastern Tennessee, surrounded by thick wooded mounds.

No GPS or telephones.

The only permitted technology is a inexpensive watch from Walmart, handed out by Laz to each runner and synchronized to his watch. Unmanned checkpoints( 13 this year ), which are paperback books.

You rip out the page that corresponds to your bib number to prove that you reached it. You must have all the book pages in hand at the end of each loop-the-loop. The books are concealed under stones or taped to trees, typically. 60 -hour cutoff. Two years ago, Gary Robbins got turned around in his exhaustion with only 2 miles to go, arriving at the campsite a few seconds over day, disqualified not just for missing the time cutoff but for moving off-route.

Two years ago, Gary Robbins got turned around in his fatigue with simply 2 miles to go, arriving at the campground a few seconds over day, disqualified not just for missing the time cutoff but for moving off-route. No aid stations. Philosophical Laz: “Being totally free doesn’t come without risk.”

Philosophical Laz: “Being totally free doesn’t come without risk.” No outside assistance.

No family members or friends to meet you with food or socks except at the camp between loops-the-loops. No clues as to the place of checkpoints or map secrets. This year’s topic, according to cackling Yoda-esque Laz: “Help is not coming.” Start time TBD.

A conch is blown 1 hour before the race starts, but that can be anywhere between midnight and midday. “The uncertainty is half the fun, ” Laz said with a chortle, “and one of the hardest things to deal with.” Entry fee is $1.60, a pair of socks( this year) and an essay. Other ultras accuse hundreds of dollars, but Laz isn’t in it for the money, though he’s partial to a specific brand of dress sock.

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