This weekend Barry and I are running the Varmint Half Marathon for the third time. The Varmint is a race held every year in mid-June, when it’s good and hot, and it also has a 5K option. The race is run in a community called Burkes Garden, located in Tazewell County. Burkes Garden is actually the highest valley in Virginia, and is nicknamed “God’s Thumbprint” because of what it looks like from the sky.
It’s a really beautiful place to run, and I’m grateful that the Varmint race affords many that opportunity. Now in it’s 21st year, the Varmint continues to grow and attract more participants, especially now that it has been added to a local race series called the ‘Beast Series’. But it’s kind of a funny name for a race, until you know the back story.
The year was 1952, and local sheep farmers were having trouble with a large “varmint” that kept killing sheep in the valley. Reportedly, the animal terrorized the community and killed over 400 sheep during an 11 month period. It got to the point where the county brought in a big-game hunter to take care of the problem. A hunting party was formed to track down the varmint.
After a tracking a fresh trail, and a chase that went on for a few hours, the varmint (which turned out to be a large coyote) was shot and killed in February 1953. The animal was later stuffed and is still on display today in the Crabtree Orchard Museum.
Thus you have the legend of the Varmint of Burkes Garden and the namesake of the Varmint 1/2 Marathon. The race shirts always have a sheep and coyote theme, and the best part is all of the trophies for overall and age group awards are sheep.
The first year Barry and I ran this race we both placed in our age group.
Naturally, it being our first time running the race, we had to go check out the museum afterwards. We also had to get pictures with the Varmint.
Every seventh year, the sheep trophies are black instead of white. This year being the 21st running of the race means it’s a black sheep year! If Barry and I can run fast enough, we may be able to take home some black sheep to keep our white sheep company on the fireplace mantle.
Have you ever run a race that has a story behind the name?
What’s the coolest finisher’s award or age group/overall award you’ve received?
Definitely my Varmint 1/2 Marathon sheep trophy
Do you enjoy visiting small, local museums?