I feel like I am late to the party on the Barkley Marathons. For years it’s been known as one of the toughest endurance races on earth but I hadn’t heard of it until last year when I stumbled on the acclaimed documentary The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young. Like a lot of folks, I was blown away by what I had just seen. Soon after I read a great article in Bitter Southerner Magazine about Lazarus Lake/Laz/Gary Cantrell, the co-founder and force of nature behind the race.
If you love tough endurance bullshit like I do, this is one of the all-time greats. Five loops of 20+ miles through the unforgiving landscapes of Frozen Head State Park with killer climbing and sketchy descents. As of today, only 17 racers have ever finished. Hardly anyone who starts even makes it through THREE loops (also known as a “fun” run). In the documentary the racers look absolutely destroyed, whether they are touching the yellow gate and continuing on or stumbling the wrong way out of the woods on their way to dropping out. I love that.
Anyway, I’ll be tracking it all this weekend. A local ultra runner, Mike Wardian, is running and I am pulling hard for him. The race starts one hour from when Laz blows the conch shell, which can be at any time starting at midnight. I can’t imagine trying to sleep knowing that at any moment, the conch shell is going to be blown. Insane.
Man do I wish I was there.