What is it about the Barkley?

This tweet, from three-time Barkley finisher Jared Campbell, is hilarious. It also brings up a pretty interesting question. What is it about the Barkley Marathons that makes it so compelling? There is no dot tracking like in the Trans Am. No live drone video. The participants are wearing $10 digital watches and can’t use GPS. The race is unsupported outside of camp, so getting reports from out in the field is spotty at best. Yet throughout the weekend, thousands of fans were furiously refreshing twitter for updates via the #BM100 hashtag. A lot of times, furiously refreshing for updates like this one:

(Shoutout to @keithdunn btw – follow that dude now because he is the best live tweeter of Barkley, bar none).

Thanks to one of the greatest documentaries ever, we at least get a sense of what these competitors are going through. We remember what John Fegyveresi’s feet looked like or how destroyed Nick Hollon looked. We assume they are suffering and probably lost and maybe a little frantic. Definitely sleep deprived. The Barkley seems so unattainable to most of us, but not in the way hitting a 98 mph fastball or windmilling a basketball is unattainable. We can all run on a trail or orienteer a little, or go for a while without sleep. We can even deal with bad weather. But these competitors are doing all of it. They are doing all of it in the worst of it. Running 100+ miles on an unmarked trail with tens of thousands of feet of climbing on no sleep in shitty weather. Did I leave anything out? I can’t even wrap my head around it. Most of us can’t and I think that’s what is so exciting. The possibility that one of us can do it. Maybe.

Lots of great pictures came out of this race, but there were two in particular which really defined Barkley for me. The first, an intimate shot of John Kelly as he realizes he has completed Barkley for the first time. It is raw and beautiful. It is human. It defines ultra endurance for me.

The second pic is of Laz pulling Gary Robbins in for a huge bear hug.

Laz - Gary bear hug

Most everyone who follows this stuff knows what happened to Gary and he does a wonderful job writing about it. This hug says so much, though. After everything Gary had been through, to come up short like he did.

Laz was all of us.

Long live The Barkley Marathons.

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