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The Barkley Marathons
April 9, 2012 5:54 AM   Subscribe

In June of 1977, James Earl Ray, assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., escaped from Brushy Mountain State Prison in Tennessee. 54.5 hours later, he was captured, "driven and exhausted, covered with mud and sand," (Large PDF) just five miles away. In 1986, accomplished ultrarunner Gary Cantrell (AKA Lazarus Lake) decided to hold an ultramarathon in neighboring Frozen Head State Park. The world's toughest 100 miler, the Barkley Marathon and Fun Run, was born. There have been 13 100-mile finishers since that time.

In 2012, three people finished the 100 miler, and a new course record was set. Here are some before and after shots of runners. Here are some shots of the course and the fun.
posted by OmieWise (35 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:58 AM on April 9, 2012


Thanks. I searched "Barkley," but I made the bad assumption that the name would have been in the post. I should have looked at the tags.
posted by OmieWise at 6:02 AM on April 9, 2012


I know it's in the article and all, but what a curious frame to choose for the first sentence of the post.

Anyways: keeeriiiiiiist! I don't think I could ride my bike 100, let alone run it in one shot. Hearing the recent account of running a normal marathon without training makes me hurt just imagining this.
posted by barnacles at 6:07 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Based on the before and after photos, I would not recommend this makeover to anyone.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:10 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I didn't think the before and after pictures were all that interesting. The pictures of the runners' legs after the race, on the other hand, are fascinating.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:22 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


That race was so hard it make this guys beard fall out.
posted by ShawnString at 6:28 AM on April 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Frozen Head park is a wonderful place for hiking and nature photography. Here are some of the photos I've taken there.

I once found a ziploc bag beside a trail, containing a flashlight and a book from which pages had been ripped. Apparently these are left at checkpoints along the route of the marathon, and the runners must retrieve pages from the book to prove that they didn't take a shortcut anywhere.
posted by wadefranklin at 6:31 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's one of these macho races everywhere. Isn't the "touch mudder" think in Australia the same sort of thing.

Another thing I can't do.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:34 AM on April 9, 2012


There's one of these macho races everywhere.

Yeah, totally. 100 miles races that need to be run without directional guidance through nearly impassable terrain in under 60 hours are, like, a dime a dozen. That's totes what the Touch Mudder is, which is like only in Australia and stuff.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:39 AM on April 9, 2012


:D

...

|p
posted by fetamelter at 6:43 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Stuart Gleman, 67, Franklin, NC.
Your profession: Retired Physicist.
Number of Barkley starts: 15.
Why are you running the Barkley?: I might not get another chance to be here at the park I love, with the people I love, and in the race I love.
Your predicted finish results: If I am very lucky I will guide one or two virgins around a complete loop in 18 or 20 hours. If I am alone, I will likely drop at about half a loop. If I start to bleed, I will be lucky to make it out alive, and the Barkley runners can have my books.
Actual results:. R.T.C. (Refused To Continue) at Raw Dog Falls, loop 1.


I really like hearing why these people are out here doing these things. I'm glad all of that was included. With Stuart Gleman in particular I wish I knew more about him.

All in all, I feel like this is a really cool concept for a race. I like to think someday I'd do one but I'm pretty sure I won't.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:55 AM on April 9, 2012


Gary Cantrell conceived the Barkley Marathons in the late 1970s, after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s convicted assassin escaped from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary near Wartburg. James Earl Ray ran for 55 hours before guards found him eight miles from the prison fence. Cantrell, a local ultrarunner and accountant, followed the story and thought: That's pathetic. I could have gone at least 100 miles in that much time.
posted by jayder at 6:57 AM on April 9, 2012


It is a little strange to conceive a race and "fun run" around the premise that "we could run farther and faster than Martin Luther King's assassin when he escaped from prison."
posted by jayder at 7:03 AM on April 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think we killed the server. I get about 2-3 pictures then it stops loading.
posted by k5.user at 7:04 AM on April 9, 2012


Let's put an ultra-runner in prison for nine years, let them out and then chase them with dogs. Oh, I don't want to see how they fare. I just want to chase them. With dogs.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:08 AM on April 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


Before and After what? A cup of tea? In many cases some of them looked BETTER after the run.
posted by HuronBob at 7:49 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is a little strange to conceive a race and "fun run" around the premise that "we could run farther and faster than Martin Luther King's assassin when he escaped from prison."

Well, yeah, but I think the premise is more: "we could run further and faster than this otherwise very motivated individual did."
posted by OmieWise at 7:52 AM on April 9, 2012


Cool Papa Bell: "Let's put an ultra-runner in prison for nine years, let them out and then chase them with dogs. Oh, I don't want to see how they fare. I just want to chase them. With dogs"

Ironically, I first read about Barkley in Runner's World magazine, and the ultra runner who wrote the story after competing is now in jail for mortgage fraud.
posted by I am the Walrus at 7:54 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I liked that this was all this guy (2nd to last of the photos) had to say:
Brett Maune, 33, Washington, Missouri. Your profession: Physicist. Number of Barkley starts: 1. Why are you running the Barkley? It is fun and memorable. Your predicted finish results: 1st. Actual results: 1st place in 52:03:08, a new course record by over three hours.
posted by Flashman at 7:56 AM on April 9, 2012


Compare that to this guy:

Joel Gat, 37, Austin, TX. Your profession: Attorney. Number of Barkley starts: This is my first. Why are you running the Barkley?: I love the suck.Your predicted finish results: Predicted by whom? Me? Finisher, 59 hours, 59 minutes, 58 seconds. Laz probably thinks 1-lap. Realistically, I expect that I will be able to do at least a fun run. Actual results: R.T.C. (Refused To Continue) @ 12 + hours into the race.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:02 AM on April 9, 2012


What is the difference between "Did Not Finish" and "Refuse to Continue"?
posted by eugenen at 8:19 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think Did Not Finish means that you made it back to camp, but you either didn't meet the time requirement (12 hours/lap) or you chose not to go on. Refused to Continue means, I think, that you stopped and needed someone to get you on the trail. Those are just guesses.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:22 AM on April 9, 2012


It looks like there's a cutoff time to complete various stages of the race, and it also sounds like some of the obstacles might be enough to effectively take someone out of the race against their own volition, in which case it's "Did Not Finish". "Refuse to Continue" presumably means they had a flash of sanity at some point, and decided to quit on their own.
posted by Drexen at 8:24 AM on April 9, 2012


I once found a ziploc bag beside a trail, containing a flashlight and a book from which pages had been ripped. Apparently these are left at checkpoints along the route of the marathon, and the runners must retrieve pages from the book to prove that they didn't take a shortcut anywhere.

So now we know who it is who leaves all those stashes of porn in the woods. Run organizers!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:34 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The radio show Earth Beat has a story on this race this week.
posted by JanetLand at 8:42 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


on 6 april the new york times had a great story about a

163 mile ultra marathon in the Sahara
posted by bukvich at 9:10 AM on April 9, 2012


> It is a little strange to conceive a race and "fun run" around the premise that "we could run farther and faster than Martin Luther King's assassin when he escaped from prison."

Battle of Marathon.

> I think we killed the server. I get about 2-3 pictures then it stops loading.
posted by k5.user


It looks like they're using some sort of dynamic-loading script. It looked the same to me until I enabled javascript, and then I got all the images.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:06 AM on April 9, 2012


In 2008, Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw his shoe at George W. Bush. In 2011, accomplished ultraputter Joe Mama (AKA Happy Pappy) decided to hold a shot put event in neighboring Iran. The world's toughest 100 yarder, the Crowley Fun Put, was born.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:09 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great, now I'm still a slacker for doing Warrior Dash.
posted by cmoj at 11:25 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This write up from one of the competitors in 2009 is pretty intense.
posted by exogenous at 11:58 AM on April 9, 2012


Great, now I'm still a slacker for doing Warrior Dash.

Next time, add dogs. Every running event is made better with the inclusion of ferocious dogs.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:14 PM on April 9, 2012



Battle of Marathon.

posted by benito.strauss at 10:06 AM on 4/9


To me a race commemorating a messenger's run to announce an important Greek military victory seems decidedly less weird than basing a race on James Earl Ray's prison break.
posted by jayder at 6:24 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


there is a kickstarter project for a doc on the marathons, says they eat its young
posted by silsurf at 11:23 PM on April 9, 2012


How odd; I was just out there last weekend. Brushy Mountain closed as a penitentiary a couple of years ago. There has been some talk of turning it into a B & B.

It's hard to overstate how rough the country is near Brushy Mountain and Frozen Head. In June, Ray would have had to contend with the harsh terrain, the usual complement of snakes, bears, boar and bobcat, lack of water (the streamlets that run everywhere in the Smokies are largely absent from the Devil's Triangle), and June is the peak of rhododendron season. That sounds picturesque until you learn about rhododendron hells; people have died in them. I'm not surprised Ray didn't make it very far in his jailbreak.

The ultrarunners who attempt the Barkley have my respect with a small side serving of WTF. I run a bit, and I run on hiking trails a bit, but no part of the Barkley sounds like fun to me.
posted by workerant at 7:44 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Someone linked to the run a few months ago on Askme (?) and I had a grand old time reading up on it. It is a hell of a thing. Didn't realize the Ray connection though.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:49 PM on April 10, 2012


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