Long-Distance Running

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.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. The Barkley Marathons is a 100-mile race comprised of five 20-mile loops that you have 60 hours to complete. 00:46

  2. 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. 01:44

  3. Runners must find books placed along the course and rip out the page number that matches their bib to prove they completed the course. 02:32

Written by Curiosity Staff June 28, 2016

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