The Barkley Marathon takes place deep in the back-country of Tennessee and consists of five loops through the Frozen Head State Park, estimated to be 1160 km long. The runners must ascend and descend about 120,000 feet of elevation in just sixty hours. The current record is held by Brett Maune at 52:03:08. The event is not heavily publicized but people from across the globe throng here to participate in this marathon. Considered as something out of a Mad Max movie, only the fittest survive here. With just two water stations for the entire route and no other amenities, it doesn’t come as a surprise that only 15 runners have managed to complete this course in 30 years. This marathon is a test of perseverance and requires physical as well as mental strength to endure the unpredictable Tennessee climate and the changing game rules.

So, even under ideal conditions, completing a single loop of the Barkley Marathons is an accomplishment for the 40 competitors who get selected to compete in this ultra-endurance event each year. This year 2018 Barkley Marathons started a little after 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and things just got tougher for the competitors as the weather signaled heavy rain and fog. So much so, that no competitor completed more than three loops this weekend, though the list of competitors included some of the world’s renowned ultra runners. This was the first time since 2015 that nobody was able to complete all the five loops in the race’s 60-hour time limit.

According to initial Twitter reports, Gary Robbins, an ultrarunner from North Vancouver, British Columbia, was leading the race about 12-minutes past the 36-hour cutoff point for the fourth loop. This was Robin’s third attempt at the Barkley after completing four loops the previous two years, and narrowly completing all five loops in a dramatic finish last year. This year, however, he became the only person to complete the “Fun Run”, which consisted of completing three out of the five loops within a 40-hour time window.


Other notable names that tried their luck this year at the Barkley included several runners and athletes like Guillaume Calmettes, Alley Beaven, Amelia Boone, Jamil Coury, and Michael Wardian traveled to Frozen Head State Park over the weekend, only to be beaten by this brutal event. According to reposts, only 20 of the 40 managed to start the second loop of the Barkley. This is not surprising as very few runners have managed to complete this race since it began in 1986.


There is no online registration for this monster marathon and it gained popularity by word of mouth and the with the help of the documentary, The Race That Eats Its Young. Ambitious runners have to figure out a way to get in touch with Race director Gary Cantrell to submit an application, and he ultimately selects the top 40 runners for each year’s race.

It’s no doubt that the Barkley takes a punishing toll on the runners. Each loop must be done in 12 hours to even get to the fifth loop. There is also the “Fun Run” which includes three loops with a time limit of 13 hours, 20 minutes for each loop.

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