Tapken to cover 1000K in virtual Tennessee event

Don Tapken of Monticello, 73, plans to cover 1,000 kilometers in a virtual race across Tennessee. (Photos by Pete Temple)

The woods near Willow Trail provide the backdrop as Don Tapken continues in his quest.
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     Don Tapken of Monticello is power-walking his way across the state of Tennessee.

     Well, sort of.

     Tapken, 73, signed up for The Great Run Across Tennessee 1000K, a virtual event in which participants run or walk that distance over a period that began May 1 and concludes Aug. 31.

     “It came across my Facebook feed, and I was immediately interested,” Tapken said. “With the first race I entered this year cancelled, I needed a challenge. It sounded like fun to do a virtual race where you can see your progress, and the idea of crossing a state sounds exciting.”

     Covering that distance – it amounts to about 635 miles – means Tapken needs to walk slightly more than five miles per day. Through two weeks, Tapken said he has gone 92.5 miles, or just over 6.6 miles per day. On May 9 alone, he walked 13 miles.

     “You can do this from the comfort of your home territory,” Tapken said. “I see several races going virtual this year. It’s fun to see what you can do with no pressure for time.”

     Tapken doesn’t run, but rather power-walks.

     “One foot always has to have contact with the ground, whereas in running you are airborne part of the time,” he explained. “Because of some hip issues I have a limp that doesn’t bother me but makes it look rather awkward.”

     He said he averages about 14 minutes per mile.

     “It’s very slow because of the drastic increase in miles,” Tapken said. “I just go how I feel, and use my warmup and cool down as part of the mileage.”

     Most days, he says, he covers his planned distance by going straight through.

     “But if I am tired I do two sessions, and that really helps,” he said.

     Tapken said he will try to get ahead in his daily mileage so he can take a day off if needed.

     “Lots of other live events will come up,” he said. “That’s why I want a little cushion.”

     The event allows for treadmill miles to count as well.

     “I have a treadmill at home and I can use that anytime if I don’t like the weather or want to start early in the morning to get in a few miles,” he said.

     Tapken began running in 2011, but became injured and took up walking in 2012. He has been doing that ever since. Last summer, Tapken covered the marathon distance of 26.2 miles over two days. He and his daughter also competed in the half-marathon at the Des Moines Marathon in 2013.

     “The one I enjoyed the most was the New Bo Half in 2018,” he said. “I went in a pace group that I would normally do for a marathon, and just had a great time helping the pace leader.”

     He said that once he completes The Great Run Across Tennessee, he will look to other events later in the year. He has set a mileage goal of 1,800 for 2020.

     “If races resume later I would like to do a 50K,” Tapken said. “This fall I will possibly do a 12-hour (event).”



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