If you’re not too familiar with the Barkley Marathons, do yourself a favor and watch the Netflix documentary on one of the most grueling trail races in the world.
So the premise of the race is that it’s supposed to be 100-miles (about 160K) in Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee but the course changes from year to year. It’s five 20-mile loops with no aid stations. If you complete three loops, you complete a “fun run.” It’s got about 54,200 feet of vertical climb.
The race is limited to 40 runners and has a pretty secretive race registration process. The entry fee is $1.60 and runners are required to bring a license plate from their state or country as part of the entry. It’s a very weird process. There have been some years where there are no official finishers.
There’s no official start time but it can go off at any time from midnight to noon on the designated race day. A conch goes off to signal one-hour until the start and then the race begins when a cigarette is lit by race director Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell.
Once the runners are off, they have 12 hours to complete each loop. There is a 60-hour cut-off for the 100 mile race. Each runner has to find anywhere from nine to 11 pages from books along the way as evidence that they followed the course. Each runner has race number to correspond with the book’s page that they need. Competitors get a new race number and a new page requirement for each lap.
That brings us to Monday’s epic conclusion to the 2017 running of the Barkley Marathon.The cut-off was set for 1:42 p.m. ET. Canadian Running has been on-site providing coverage of the race.
This year’s winner was John Kelly of Washington, D.C. who ran the 100-mile course in 59 hours and 30 minutes and became the race’s 15th finisher in history.
Here’s how Canadian Running described Kelly’s final loop and finish:
“Kelly himself had a dramatic finish today. Conditions were bitterly cold and the runner ended up finishing the Barkley Marathons wearing a Walmart bag he found on the course. He also sported an orange hat that he picked up along the way.
He almost didn’t make it though. After finishing, he said that he passed out from lack of sleep. He doesn’t know how long he was sleeping but knows that it was within an hour and half to the cutoff. It was the frigid conditions that woke him.”
Gary Robbins of North Vancouver fell six seconds short of the cut-off after losing track of where the finish line (a yellow gate) was located. He had all of his pages and when he reached the gate, he collapsed to the ground.