Belmont Associate Professor of Italian Dr. Francesca Muccini set the female record in the 314-mile long Last Annual Vol State Road Race in July, finishing in just four days, 4 hours, 18 minutes, 5 seconds.
“Everything hurts, but my spirit is so high,” Muccini said shortly after finishing the race.
Muccini has been running in races for 10 years, but has been active her whole life. A native Italian, she enjoyed running along the beaches of Pesaro, Italy — her hometown — as well as swimming, biking and playing tennis.
But the Vol State is no run on the beach.
314 miles long and spanning from Missouri to Georgia, the Vol State is an ultra-marathon not every contestant even finishes, let alone sets records for.
And while many may think the sheer endurance to run this race is brutal, the logistics required to complete the race are just as grueling. Where to eat and sleep are questions that contestants encounter along the journey, questions that can often factor into finish times.
However, Muccini finished the race in just four days, 4:18:05, becoming only the second female to win the race and setting the ninth best time in the course’s history.
But for Muccini, it was never about setting all-time records.
“I just wanted to beat my time from last year,” Muccini said. “After I finished the race, I still had energy left, I knew I could have done better.”
Last year, in her first Vol State ultra-marathon appearance, she finished the race in five days, 7:35 — a time that left her ultimately unsatisfied.
Muccini set her eyes on an improved time for the 2017 race. She trained the only way she knew how: by running other ultra marathons. These marathons ranged from the famous 34-mile Boston Marathon to the lesser known 100-mile Run4Water ultra marathon in Lebanon, Tennessee. An impressive list of over 30 completed races also accompanies her runner profile on UltraSignup.com.
But beating her previous record in the Vol State would still prove to be a unique challenge once she began her second attempt. While the course is full of beautiful back roads and countryside, it’s hot with no shade. Cutting diagonally across Tennessee, the course also frequently changes grade.
Leading Muccini’s crew was her husband, Dr. Mark Anderson, who is chair of the department of philosophy at Belmont.
“Being a part of the crew was just as hard as running the race.” Muccini said.
Over the course of her four days running, Muccini said her husband only got one night of sleep.
Around mile 280, Muccini started having stomach problems. It was Anderson who watched her nutrition and made sure she kept eating — a diet of ice, potato chips and bites of scrambled egg got her to the finish line.
“I could not have done it without him” Muccini said, “He kept me focused.”
After her record-setting race, Muccini received a proclamation from the Tennessee Senate for her achievement. She also bears the title King of the Road 2017 from the Vol State.
But it’s clear Muccini wasn’t in the race for glory. She doesn’t consider herself a competitive person. It’s instead about inspiration.
“This honor comes with responsibility” Muccini said, “I want to encourage other women to challenge themselves and find their inner strength that everyone has, they just have to have the courage to find it.”
This article written by Paris Lawson. Photo from UltraSignup.com