Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 Barkley Marathons - Second Fun Run Done!

Barkley Marathons Selfie (Photo: Eric Fritz)
Loop 2, Top of Rat Jaw with Brandon and Husky (Photo: Kendra Miller)
The whole world holds it's breath after Laz only counts 12 of 13 pages! (Photo: Karen Jackson)
Finished the Fun Run... AGAIN! YES! (Photo: Billy Simpson)
Quick Summary of Failures

This past weekend was the 31st edition of the Barkley Marathons held at Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee.  This race is considered one of the most difficult 100 mile races on the planet.  The five loop race has 67,000 feet of climb (and 67,000 feet of descent) which is more than any other 100 mile race.  Since 1986 only 15 runners out of just over 1000 have finished within the 60 hour cutoff.  The loop is unmarked, brutally steep, and is almost entirely off-trail; the only provided aid are a couple of water caches (gallon jugs of water); no GPSs, pacers, or cell phones, and only the race provided wrist-watch could be worn.  To prove you’ve completed the loop correctly, runners must locate several books spread around the loop (typically at the high and low points of mountains) and remove a particular page and turn them in at the completion of the loop. 

I trained harder than ever for this year’s race, lots of hill climbing and long, solo hikes and runs.  My goal was to finish all five loops under the cutoff.  Unfortunately some early navigational issues during the first loop in the dark and heavy fog slowed just about everybody down including myself.  I ended up a couple hours slower than expected on the first loop.  However, the second loop (opposite direction) went much better with only a few navigational issues, but the reverse loop is a lot more tricky and the climbs much steeper which makes it a slower loop anyhow.  By the third loop I was still feeling very good but was well outside the time frame needed to be allowed to start a fourth loop (runners must start 4th loop within 36 hours), however I still had time to finish the loop under the cutoff for a “Fun Run” finish (3 loops under 40 hours).  I finished the Fun Run in 39:03 and was just 1 of 6 runners (40 starters) who managed 3 loops or more; most quit after the first loop.  Two runners made it to the fifth and final loop but only one managed to complete the course correctly and under the final time limit; he was just the 15th finisher!  This was my 8th start and second Fun Run finish; only 34 people have finished Fun Run (or further) 2 times or more in the history of the race.