The Barkley Marathons Is A Race You Probably Won't Finish

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The Barkley Marathons Is A Race You Probably Won't Finish

Even for seasoned ultramarathoners, there's nothing familiar about the Barkley Marathons. First of all, registering for the race is tough: there's no website, so potential participants have to find out how to get in touch with race director Gary Cantrell (a.k.a. Lazarus Lake) directly. Cantrell is also the only one who knows when the 100-mile race will start: he blows a conch shell to wake the camping participants any time between 11 p.m. and 11 a.m. before the race, letting them know they have an hour to get to the starting line. In lieu of a starting gun, Cantrell lights a cigarette. Once the runners begin, they must complete five loops approximately 20 miles in length, each with a 12-hour time limit. This is where things get really tough: steep inclines, trails shrouded in brambles, and a complete lack of aid stations or route markers along the annually changing course leave each runner bloodied and disoriented if he or she is strong enough to complete even one loop. It's rare that a runner will complete the Barkley Marathons -- only 14 have done it in 30 years -- but many participants come back again and again to compete nonetheless.

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Key Facts to Know

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    The Barkley Marathons is a 100-mile race comprised of five 20-mile loops that you have 60 hours to complete. 0:46

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    The course is in the same park as the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, from which James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King Jr.'s killer, escaped. He only made it 8 miles in 54 hours. 1:44

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    Runners must find books placed along the course and rip out the page number that matches their bib to prove they completed the course. 2:32

When Humans Race Horses in a Marathon, Who Wins?

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When Humans Race Horses in a Marathon, Who Wins?

Leave it up to a couple of barflies to come up with an event as baffling as the Man v. Horse Marathon. The idea was hatched in the back bar of the Neuadd Arms Hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells, where the owner overheard his patrons' fervent discussion about whether a man could beat a horse in a distance challenge, and decided to put it to the test. The mountainous 22-24-mile event has taken place every year since 1980, and whereas you might expect the horses to beat the humans without contest, that hasn't always been the case. Human runner Huw Lobb beat the lead horse for the first time in 2004, and Florian Holzinger repeated Lobb's achievement in 2007. The reason the competition is so close comes down to evolution. Many scientists believe we evolved to be persistent hunters that chased animals across the savanna until they collapsed. Our ability to lose heat through sweat is just one adaptation that gives us a leg up on horses and other quadrupeds, who pant to expel heat but have trouble doing so at top speeds. That's likely the reason humans have been able to win: those victories took place on hot days.

Imagine Running 7 Marathons On 7 Continents In 7 Days

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Imagine Running 7 Marathons On 7 Continents In 7 Days

For most people, running even one marathon is an accomplishment -- imagine running seven. Created in 2015, the World Marathon Challenge is the world's only race that takes participants through seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. Registration fees hover around $36,000 and include business class or chartered airfare from Antarctica to Australia. Runners must finish each marathon within eight hours, or the plane will leave them behind. Temperatures throughout the course range from -4° Fahrenheit (-20° Celsius) in Union Glacier, Antarctica to 77° Fahrenheit (25° Celsius) in Sydney, Australia. To date, only 27 individuals have taken on this challenge, and all of them finished.

Sled Dogs Are The Ultimate Marathon Runners

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Sled Dogs Are The Ultimate Marathon Runners

The cardiorespiratory fitness level of a sled dog is three times that of a marathon runner.

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Key Facts to Know

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    The majority of racing sled dogs are Siberian or Alaskan huskies. 2:40

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    Humans use glycogen and oxygen to create energy, whereas sled dogs use fat and oxygen. 3:10

Humans Beat Almost Every Animal At Running Long Distances

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Humans Beat Almost Every Animal At Running Long Distances

In nearly every athletic area, from jumping to sprinting to fighting, humans are lousy when compared to other animals. The only event where we might stand a chance in an interspecies Olympics: distance running. In a 2004 paper in Nature, Harvard anthropologist Daniel Lieberman and University of Utah biologist Dennis Bramble argue that humans evolved to run long distances. Our tendons, muscles, and ligaments help us store and release energy with every stride, and our large percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibers, the type geared for endurance, help us avoid fatigue. But our best feature is our ability to avoid overheating. Humans' ability to sweat combined with our relatively hairless hides help us dissipate heat faster than would-be rivals like horses, who pant to stay cool and can't pant while running. Two animals that could beat us in a marathon are the ostrich and the camel. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.

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Key Facts to Know

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    Humans were physically made for running. 1:18

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    Fuel humans need to keep stamina is called ATP. 3:40

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    Runners can "hit a wall" during a run, which is a term for extreme fatigue. 5:29