Will a Female Finish the Barkley This Year?
The Barkley Marathons is a long standing race in the hills of Eastern Tennessee. It is legend in the ultrarunning community. Many non-runners (and runners) cannot even comprehend why someone would want to attempt the Barkley.
The idea for the Barkley came about when James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr escaped from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. He was able to cover 8 or 9 miles in 54 hours. Gary Cantrell, the Race Director of The Barkley, was interested in seeing the terrain that was so difficult to run on. He found out for himself, and thought this would be the perfect spot for a race.
The course is unmarked. You must use your map and compass and printed instructions to maneuver around Frozen Head State Park. There is no aid, you carry all your own food. The cutoffs for the 100 mile race are 12 hours per loop. The 60 mile “Fun Run” has a cutoff of 40 hours. To prove you have been around “the loop” you must find and tear a page out of books-from 9-11 books that corresponds to your bib number.
Runners have 59000 feet of ascent and 59000 feet of descent through these 100 miles. It’s been rumored that a climb added in 2014 more elevation, it’s more like 62,000 elevation.
The race takes place the weekend closest to April Fools Day. To date, there have been 17 finishers since the race began in 1986. Many years there have been no finishers, hence one of the popular slogans about the Barkley “The Race that Eats it Young”.
No female has ever finished the Barkley.
There has only been a few women even complete the “Fun Run” in the allotted 40 hours. Until Beverly Anderson Abs completed the Fun Run in 2013, it had been eleven years since a female finished the 3 Loops-Sue Johnson in 2001.
The starting list of The Barkley is also not published. Runners may “out” themselves and let it be known that they are training for the Barkley. You hear murmurings around the interweb and words of entrants from friends.
Although not confirmed, I am hoping I know of at least two women who have a chance to finish the Fun Run, or dare I say it..more than that. If these two women are in the race this year, it could be the strongest female contingents in a long time.
There is no chip timing and no tracking of athletes at the Barkley. With the advent of cell phone technology, Twitter has helped let the outside world what is happening to the runners “out there”. Sometimes, in keeping with the eccentricity of the Barkley, the information being disseminated is more misinformation that real beta. One hashtag, to follow along, isn #BM100.
When to start following this? Who knows. Another endearing trait of the race start is that it fluctuates and is not known in advance. A conch shell will be blown, between 12.01 and 11.59 am on March 28 this year. The race will start one hour after the conch shell blows.
Will a female finish The Barkley this year? Will anyone finish The Barkley this year? We won’t know until Monday morning, March 30.