1709079147 Endurance freaks the Barkley Marathon a crazy and impossible event

Endurance freaks: the Barkley Marathon, a crazy and impossible event with 18,000 meters of altitude

Since the first edition in 1995, only 17 runners have completed the five laps and 100 miles of the famous Barkley Marathon. An extreme, unorthodox endurance race in the wilderness where resistance and tenacity go hand in hand with dementia.

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This devilish time trial takes place every spring at Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee.

According to the current formula, the approximately 40 participants each year have to complete 5 tours, each covering a distance of approximately 32 km, in the park's mountains and valleys in less than 60 hours.

It is so demanding that it requires double the time for a route that would normally take 20 to 30 hours.

Founder and organizer Gary Cantrell, nicknamed Lazarus Lake or “Laz,” created the race in such a way that it couldn’t be finished! And when a participant strives for the madness of success, it forces him to reach for the limits of human capabilities, both physical and psychological.

Less than 1% of participants manage to achieve the title of “Completer”.

Marathon Barkley Big Dog Backyard Ultra Gary Cantrell

Gary Cantrell is co-founder of the Barkley Marathon. Instagram BIGDOG BACKYARDULTRA

160 km and Everest twice

Over a total distance of 160 km on hiking trails, participants climb 18,000 meters in altitude, more than twice that of Everest, in climatic conditions as extreme as the event itself.

Failure awaits at any time because the Barkley is designed to crush the hopes of even the most stubborn athlete.

Marathon Barkley Big Dog Backyard Ultra Gary Cantrell

Big Dog Backyard Ultra races require runners to complete laps of approximately 4.2 miles (6.7 km) of trail circuit in under an hour. The winner earns entry into the Barkley Marathon. Instagram BIGDOG BACKYARDULTRA

Equipped with a map and a compass, no runner can use technical devices.

You must therefore orientate yourself on the route, find a way to stay there and survive in the middle of the night.

To ensure they stay on track, “Laz” hides books with the participants’ bib numbers.

They must therefore tear up the pages corresponding to their number and return them to him after each round. L

The route changes every year.

I'm looking for a condolence message!

To participate in the Barkley Marathon, runners must first contact the organizer, who wishes to retain exclusivity.

No official registration website can be found. You have to motivate your participation if you manage to find the coordinates of “Lake Lazarus” at exactly the right time, which is waiting for the cover letters.

Despite the event's growing popularity over the last 10 years, it does not only select experienced runners capable of covering long distances.

He wants to bring together athletes with different skills needed in the outdoors, including orientation.

After careful sorting, he sends them a letter of condolence warning them of the ordeal that awaits them.

You will also find all legal releases that need to be signed under lock and key.

The only participant to receive their ticket to the Barkley is the winner of the Fall Classic, a shortened version of the ultimate event.

A crazy idea

This idea of ​​“crazy” dates back to the 1970s. Cantrell founded this race after mocking the 55-hour, 8-mile run of James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King's assassin, in April 1968.

The latter escaped from Brushy Mountains Prison in the heart of Frozen Head Park after serving a 99-year sentence.

According to Cantrell, he could have run 100 miles in the same time.

The Barkley was therefore launched in 1986 with a handful of participants.

It evolved until 1995, the year in which the founder laid the final foundation for his challenge that we still know today and that very few competitors have overcome.

Loss of orientation, hallucinations and conversations with a trash can

In the middle of the race at the 2022 Barkley Marathon, Karel Sabbe completely freaks out on the fourth lap. While leading the race, he gets lost and his race takes an unusual turn.

Early in the morning, the Belgian went off course and ended up on the wrong side of Brushy Mountain in Frozen Head State Park in eastern Tennessee.

After more than 40 hours of racing, he lost geographical orientation and suffered from hallucinations.

They are, among other things, one of the many consequences of lack of sleep.

Sabbe therefore finds himself in the small town of Petros, far off the route, and seeks help from a supposed lady with her two children.

However, it turns out he's still hallucinating… Instead, he's talking to a trash can near a park.

He then tries to find help on the side of the road. But in vain, his shabby appearance of a man from space doesn't help him.

Residents therefore called the police. Later, a patrol officer approaches the runner, knowing that the Barkley Marathon is taking place in the area. He takes Sabbe back to the starting point, about 20 km away, where he meets cross-country skier and organizer Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell.

Marathon Barkley Big Dog Backyard Ultra Gary Cantrell

At the Barkley Marathon 2022, Belgian Karel Sabbe (left) got lost in the mountains and went off the race course. A police officer (center) found him in a small town and took him back to the starting point, where he joined Gary Cantrell (right), the event's co-founder. Instagram KARELSABBE

None of the 40 participants in 2022 reached the goal. However, Sabbe will arrive there the following year with two other drivers. A record.