There’s an amazing documentary film called “The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats its Young”. The film chronicles what many people believe to be the most challenging foot race in the world – 100 miles which must be completed in under 60 hours. The race which was first run in 1986 has an elevation gain approximately equivalent to climbing Mount Everest twice. It involves completing 5 laps of the course through the thick brush of Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park. The first runner to finish all 5 laps was Mark Williams in the 10th year the race was run. The Barkley Marathons are the brainchild of Gary Cantrell, aka Lazarus Lake. He had the idea for the race after James Earl Ray escaped from the local penitentiary and only made it 8 miles in 55 hours. He thought he could do 100 miles in that time, so he created the race.
The Barkley only accepts 35-40 participants per year with the majority of contestants finishing less than 3 of the 5 lap race. The entry fee for first time competitors is $1.60 and a license plate from your state or province. In April, 2017 John Kelly from Washington, D.C became the 15th finisher in the race’s history with a time of 59 hours and 30 minutes. North Vancouver’s Gary Robbins, a highly decorated ultra-marathoner finished this year’s race in a heartbreaking 60 hours and 6 seconds. Yes, after running for 60 hours he finished an agonizing 6 seconds short of his ultimate goal. He first attempted the race last year and finished 4 1/2 laps before hallucinations made it impossible to continue. It was the best finish ever for a Canadian racer and third best for a rookie. If Gary ever zips past you on the Grouse Grind be sure to congratulate him on his amazing accomplishment. Check out the description of his finish (Close but No Cigarette) on www.garyrobbinsrun.com