THE BARKLEY MARATHONS IN THE MOUNTAINS OF TENNESSEE have a success rate of about one percent: it’s been going for 30 years, 1,100 people have run it, and only 14 people have ever finished it. This year, of the 40 runners competing, not a single person finished.
Gary Cantrell, the creator of the race, told Bloomberg News, “The mountains won.”
It’s not uncommon for no one to finish the race, but someone has finished every year since 2007. The course is notoriously difficult, consisting of 5 loops on a 20-mile mountain course in Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park, which must be completed in 60 hours or less. When the 60 hours expired, one runner was still out on the course, and a search began. He eventually wandered back, claiming he had gotten lost and had decided to take an 8-hour nap.
Only two runners this year completed more than three laps in the time limit. One of them quit after finishing his third, while the other collapsed somewhere on the course and decided maybe it wasn’t a good idea to continue. Two more runners completed the third lap, but they took longer than was allowed — by seven hours.
No woman has ever finished the race, though 9 women were in the group of 40 this year. Nicki Rehn, an Australian runner in this years race, said, “You don’t come here to be victorious, you come here to be humiliated.”
The total vertical climb of the race is 54,200 over the 100 miles, which is nearly double the elevation of Mount Everest.
Gary Cantrell decided to create the race when James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr., escaped from jail and only made it 8 miles in 55 hours. Cantrell said to himself that he could go at least 100 miles in that time, and the Barkley Marathons were born.
On top of having to run 100 miles, runners are required to find 9 of 12 books scattered about the course, and remove the page corresponding to their assigned number in order to prove that they found it. It took 9 years for anyone to complete the race, and two people have completed it twice, including Brett Maune, who holds the time record, having completed the race in just over 52 hours in 2012.