Barkley Marathons – No Finishers Likely

Rob Howard / 19.03.2021
Courtney Dauwalter, Liz Canty and Maggie Guterl
Courtney Dauwalter, Liz Canty and Maggie Guterl / © Courtney Dauwalter Facebook

It seems like only yesterday we reported on runners setting off on the infamous Barkley Marathons, and already it looks likely there will be no finishers again this year.  Hang on, it was yesterday!

The ‘no finishers’ prediction comes from none other than John Kelly, the last man to finish the course when he raced in 2017.  The American ultra runner, now resident in the UK, tweeted; “It looks like no one will make it to the 4th loop this year.” 

With his usual humour, he later posted, “My time as the most recent #BM100 finisher will now have (at the least) outlasted a presidency, a pandemic (hopefully), and the entire Brexit saga.  It’s nearly the same age as our twins who start school this year. I think the Barkley needs term limits.”

Despite the usual collection of strong and determined ultra runners gathered in Frozen Head State Park, the chances of a finisher at the 100 mile race looked even more slim than usual. There was heavy rain for hours before the start and after the runners were set off by Laz Lake there have been reports of more downpours, hail, thunder and fog.  It’s not what you need when trying to get around the Barkley Marathons course!

Runners aim to complete five 20 mile loops of the course, and the terrain and ascent are so punishing very few make it onto any of the later loops.  There are cut-off time limits at the end of each loop, where those overdue are ‘tapped out’.  (A bugler plays ‘taps’, but no one ever says if it’s the same guy each year, or what his name is. Anyone know?)

Reports by Keith Dunn on twitter have told the story of regular retirements in the bad weather this year, and he said the fog seems to be winning.  Sixteen runners made onto loop 2, while the rest retired or failed to meet the 13 hours 40 minutes cut-off.  Of these 16 only 2 made it to loop 3.

Frank Gonzalez quit the race on loop two and tapped out saying, “I knew I was going to fail I just didn’t think it would be so early.”

Courtney Dauwalter, Liz Canty and Maggie Guterl ran together into the changeover to loop 3, but were too late.  They arrived back to camp after 26.52, narrowly missing the 26 hour 40 minute cut off.

All the other runners except Jared Campbell and Luke Nelson missed this cut too. Those two were back into camp after 24 hours 32 minutes to start loop 3, but up against it in the continuing bad weather. They are now behind schedule to make the cut-off at the end of loop 3 and Kelly commented, “The race will be over by 7.40 pm Eastern Time today.”  (Presumably that is the next cut-off.)

Campbell and Nelson will get to record what is known as a Barkley Marathons ‘Fun Run’ finish if they complete the 60 miles. Some fun run!

And if there are no finishers again this year, the legend of the Barkley Marathons, ‘the race that eats its young’, will just continue to grow.

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