Barkley Marathons are underway with 15 runners on loop three

The Barkley Marathons is widely considered to be one of the toughest races in the world. With its gruelling terrain, unpredictable weather, and strict entry requirements, it has become a legendary event in the world of ultra-running.

The race got underway on March 14 and today there are still 15 runners in the mix as of about 11:30 Tennessee time.

The Barkley Marathons is an ultra-marathon held annually in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee, USA. It was created by Gary "Lazarus Lake" Cantrell in 1986 as a tribute to a prison escape that took place in the area. The race consists of five loops through the park, each around 20 miles in length, making a total distance of around 100 miles. The race is notorious for its extreme difficulty, with runners having to navigate steep climbs, dense forests, and treacherous terrain. Only 40 runners are allowed to participate each year, and the entry process is intentionally opaque and challenging to deter all but the most committed athletes.

When does the Barkley Marathons take place?

The Barkley Marathons typically takes place in March or April each year, with the exact date being kept secret until shortly before the event. This is to prevent people from planning too far in advance and to keep the mystique of the race alive. The start time is also kept secret until the day of the race, with runners beginning the course at the sound of a conch shell blown by Cantrell himself.

Comments from those who have participated

Those who have participated in the Barkley Marathons describe it as an incredible, life-changing experience. The combination of the challenging terrain, the camaraderie among runners, and the unpredictable nature of the race make it a truly unique event. However, many also describe it as the hardest thing they have ever done, both physically and mentally. The unpredictable weather and the need to navigate through the park using only a map and compass make the race even more challenging. Despite these difficulties, many runners return year after year, drawn by the challenge and the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing such a gruelling event.

What's happening this year?

The race got underway on March 14 with a number of big names at the start line including John Kelly, the last person to actually finish the race. And that was back in 2017. Others with a good shot this year include Jared Campbell, who has finished three times, Damian Hall, Johan Steene (pictured above with Lake), and Karel Sabbe.

The end of Loop 3 should see the field cut down, potentially completely, but we shall see. Completely three loops is still an achievement, even though it comes with the moniker “fun run.”

The race is limited to a 60-hour period from the start of the first loop.

To keep up with all the race action, it’s best to follow along with Keith Dunn, who provides the best commentary and most up-to-date results.



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