For the second time in history, a record number of 3 people have completed the Barkley Marathons, one of the toughest races in the world
For the second time in running history, a record three athletes have completed the Barkley Marathons, an unusual and nearly impossible competition held annually in Tennessee.
The famous ultramarathon, the brainchild of runner Gary Cantrell (better known by his nickname Lazarus Lake or “Laz”), takes place in Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park. The route was inspired by the 1977 prison escape of James Earl Ray, who assassinated the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
The race consists of five loops of approximately 20 miles each, for a total of 100 to 130 miles through scrubby mountains with an elevation gain of approximately 63,000 feet. Athletes walk the course for three days and three sleepless nights – and there are no aid stations, phones or GPS to help with navigation. Getting lost – as well as falling and getting hurt in the brush – is part of the journey.
The ultramarathon is marked by unique unmanned checkpoints, each containing a pocket book. Athletes must tear out a page corresponding to their bib number and have all the pages of the book in hand at the end of each loop to prove that they have reached each checkpoint.
Due to the array of unique challenges the race presents, only 17 individuals have completed the race since its inception in 1986. In the past five years, no one has completed the race, Cantrell told CNN.
But this year finally broke that streak: three athletes, Frenchman Aurélien Sanchez, American John Kelly and Belgian Karel Sabbe, completed the hellish five laps within the 60-hour deadline on Friday.
The only other time three riders finished the race was in 2012, according to Cantrell.
On Twitter, Kelly thanked her followers for their support. “Thank you all for your support, and I hope some of what we will experience there is a shared experience,” he wrote. “Or, if we’re all just a bunch of idiots running around in the woods, that at least is fun.”
Jasmin Paris, who did not complete the course but made history as the second woman to start the fourth loop, also thanked his followers for their support on Twitter.
“Conditions couldn’t have been better and I was blessed to share miles on the trail with great people,” she wrote. “I knew from the start that training hadn’t been ideal (tired out, then injured), but I gave the best of myself and I’m proud of it. I still think a woman can complete 5 loops, although I suspect Laz will make next year even harder.