Varmint Crabtree Orchard Museum

The History of ‘The Varmint’

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.

Burkes Garden

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.

Varmint Half Marathon

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.

Crabtree Orchard Museum
Photos of the hunting party, displayed in the Crabtree Orchard Museum

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.

Varmint 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.

Varmint 1/2 Marathon sheep trophies

The first year Barry and I ran this race we both placed in our age group.

Varmint 1/2 Marathon Burkes Garden

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.

Varmint 1/2 Marathon Crabtree Orchard Museum

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?

11 thoughts on “The History of ‘The Varmint’”

  1. I’m so jealous you won a sheep! I want one!!
    I had no idea about the black sheep thing. I don’t think Kurt & I are running this year. Neither of us feel like driving all the way down there & staying in a hotel.
    Now that I know it’s a black sheep year though, I may not be able to resist 🙂

      1. Yes, it would be our third year running, too! It’s such a cool race, but it’s a 3 1/2
        Hour drive for us.

  2. That overhead shot is crazy. The town looks like it’s sitting in a volcano. So awesome they use the town history and back story for the whole theme of the race. Very appealing in my opinion. Can’t tell you how awesome those sheep awards are. So jealous. I know some of the races in our smaller town have races with back stories but I haven’t ran in any yet. Best award was the glow in the dark medal we got a few weeks back. BUT I need to find something to compete with that sheep, that thing is awesome and having a black one will make it even better.

    1. Your glow in the dark medal was really neat and unique! I can’t wait to see what you find to compete with the sheep trophy 🙂

  3. What a fun race and I love that you are now trying to win black sheep to go with the white ones! Fun! Every time I see a coyote, I think it looks just like a tan version of Shrek. I see them in the wild around here sometimes and it takes me a minute to realize it is not a dog. Anyway, GOOD LUCK!

    1. I probably should have mentioned that for me the chances were slim to none unless I miraculously ran sub-2, haha. Shrek does kind of look like a coyote! We have them (I can hear them at night) but I seldom see any of them.

  4. I’m sure I probably told you how my Grandpa used to tell me stories when I was little about the varmint that killed so many sheep in Burkes Garden. He had old newspaper clippings from when it happened!

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