If the definition of a tough ultra is one that is so hard that no-one can finish it under the time limit, then the Barkley Marathons wins. This year, as has been the case so many times before, there were no successful runners at Lazarus Lake’s crazy-a** run. And it was not for want of trying.
In fact, Laz was full of his own special kind of praise for this year’s contingent, “The quality of the runners this year was obvious, because they failed faster.”
Only 15 people have ever finished the Barkley Marathons, 18 finishes in total out of 800 starts. Over half of the editions have had no finishers at all. 2012 was a bonanza year when a stunning three people managed it.
The cut off point is 60 hours and the distance varies but is claimed to be a 20-mile loop which is run 5 times. There are tales of that loop being as long as 26 miles, though. There is a whopping 16,500 m of vertical ascent through wild scrub and woodland.
Lazarus got the idea for the trail from the murderer, James Earl Ray, who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. Ray was held in Brushy Mountain State Prison, in the heart of the Tennessee Mountains. He escaped, and was on the run for 54 hours but only made it eight miles from the prison. Lazarus decided to try and go further and the Barkley was born.
This year, the weather provided some extra difficulty with lashing rain.
Watching it on Twitter counts as a fun day in itself, and if you fancy catching up, check out @BarkleyCourse who came up with gems such as this before-race special:
“Hasn’t started yet. They’re all hiding in their tents, which now reek of damp clothing, funky feet, flop sweat and farts, while they pretend to sleep. And that’s just the women.”
@keithdunn gave a running commentary all through and his feed is definitely worth a look for step-by-step heartbreak.
Gary Robbins, who missed out last year by six seconds was out there again this year, but success eluded him. In 2017, he made it to loop five but got lost and did not follow the correct route back to the start/finish and arrived six seconds beyond the 60-hour cut off.
This year, he and Guillaume Calmettes, were the last men standing but couldn’t push through. The last word goes to @BarkleyCourse:
For a full interview with Lazarus Lake, click here.