Swedish runner Johan Steene on missing the Barkley over travel ban

Needless to say, the world is a different place than it was a day ago, let alone last year when Johan Steene finished his fourth unsuccessful attempt at completing the Barkley Marathon. 

Two days ago, Steene, along with a number of other European ultra runners, found out that he will be unable to attend the race in 2020 as a result of COVID-19-related travel restrictions. 

Currently, the small, niche event is going ahead. 

Get Out There spoke with Steene about missing the Barkleys this year. 

How did it feel to learn that the United States would ban inbound travel from Europe and that you'd have to miss the Barkley Marathon?

The news this morning, when I opened my phone, was heartbreaking. Sure, it’s just a race but this particular one comes with a lot of planning and preparation. And of course, it is the ONE for me. I sincerely hope the world can work together and slow this Corona thing down. If you have symptoms, stay home. Wash your hands!

Have you raced it before?

I’ve raced Barkley four times before, never been really close to make it, but somehow, at every start at the yellow gate I believe I have what it takes to finish it… but after a few laps, the time runs out and it slips between my fingers. Again. Every damned time! It’s addictive.

Whereabouts are you located, and what is the situation there regarding the virus?

I live in Stockholm, Sweden and we have a severe outbreak here right now. It’s believed that we got a lot of Corona cases from people coming back from skiing trips in the Alps a week ago and now it's spreading. The authorities have banned gatherings of more than 500 people and some companies send their staff home and a few schools have closed. We’re hoping that the measures taken will slow down the virus enough for the healthcare system to stay functional.
Have you heard from Laz regarding the situation?

Yep, he has informed the entrants and the ones on the waitlist about the situation…

“…Needless to say, the situation remains fluid. But until a ban comes down on travel within the United States, or on holding the race, we will proceed to do the best we can with what we have. No matter what happens, I will never send your $1.60 back!”

What will you be doing to replace the race in your calendar?

I’m thinking about doing something flat now instead… maybe beat the Nordic 48h record. 


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