The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young
As a runner in Tennessee, I can't exactly pinpoint when I first heard about Barkley. It's just one of those things that YOU know about. Or, you at least pretend that you know about it. You'll hear it brought up in conversation and nod along and because... it's Barkley, dude and you're a runner. DUH. So, throughout the years, I've learned bits and pieces here and there. Then I started dating The KoB who is (among many other things) my ultra running Sensai and I have asked him a zillion questions about it and hopefully I am not divulging a ginormous secret, but The KoB's awesome Brother (KoBB perhaps?) hopes to attempt Barkley one of these days and might have even figured out the application process and might have even applied. MAYBE.
He will also hop out of your boat and grab your lure that you
got stuck on a log in the river.
While holding a beer.
While holding a beer.
I suspect that will not come in handy at Barkley,
but, helpful nonetheless.
In my mind, Barkley is like this mythical race. The unicorn of races, if you will. The application process is a huge fucking secret, so the chances of you even being able to APPLY is probably less than your chances of seeing a unicorn and then, if you do find out how to apply, the chances of you actually getting in are like being able to actually ride that unicorn and then if you are lucky to even finish 3 laps of the 5 lap course (finishing 3 laps of the course is considered a "fun run" and respectable), well... that's like being in a meadow filled with unicorns with rainbows coming out of their asses.
Or cats with horns. Whatever.
But, as with anything mythical, there is that element of allure. Everyone wants to know about it and talk about it. So, when my friend Carolyn texted me Wednesday morning asking if I could skip work that afternoon and get to the Nashville Film Festival to catch the last showing of this documentary. I was like HELL YES.
I actually kind of almost wished I didn't know ANYTHING about The Barkley Marathons or Gary Cantrell aka Lazarus Lake (the Race Director), because I think it would have made the documentary even more entertaining.
But, in case you aren't hip to the Barkley, let me give you a brief Amypedia of it:
It's a race that is referred to as a 100 mile race.
In actuality, it's about 130 miles.
It's ridiculously rough terrain.
The course is not marked, so you are just given a map (THAT YOU HAVE TO MARK YOUR DAMN SELF FROM A MASTER MAP) and a compass.
Only 15 people have finished the race since it started in 1986.
No woman has ever gone further than 66 miles.
This is part of the "course."
That is also JARED CAMPBELL.
The documentary is great!
Okay, you want more than that... well, it displays the quirky, but lovable side of Laz. It starts out with a lot of interviews with him and his past. It's interesting to hear his perspective on those that attempt the race. He talks about how a lot of people who are supremely successful in their careers and life are drawn to this race, because there is a HUGE chance of failure.
Which must be why I have zero interest in attempting the race.
And then the movie follows the race and certain runners in particular. You get to hear their stories of why they are there, what they are hoping for. And the year that the documentary focuses on, happens to be like the BEST year ever of the Barkley. There is more than one finisher and an amazing course record gets set (that still stands today). I knew about the course record that year and I remembered that Jared Campbell finished it the first year he ran it, so, I knew there were two finishers and I just assumed that was it. So, when they kept interviewing this guy John (a Barkley Virgin) throughout the documentary... I was like... "bless his little heart. he thinks he can finish."
And he kept completing loop after loop and then it became clear that he was going to finish the race, but then... I was like... OH SHIT, HE'S NOT GOING TO MAKE THE TIME CUT-OFF. HE'S GOING TO FINISH THIS DAMN THING AND BE TOO LATE AND NOT GET AN OFFICIAL TIME. I could feel the tears welling up as he ran down to the finish...
And... well... you're going to have to watch the documentary to find out what happened.
Or, I guess look it up online to see if he finished in time.
The documentary was fun, and interesting, and well shot. I can't recommend it enough. And since it was apart of the Nashville Film Festival, most of the people in the audience, weren't runners. Most of them looked to be retirees, honestly. And they were still cracking up and enjoying it.
After the movie, Laz popped out of the audience and he and one of the filmmakers did a Q&A. In which, Laz, seriously made a comment about how he didn't think a woman would ever finish the race.
But, instead of getting mad, the only thing to do is to prove him wrong. So, all you BADASS ULTRARUNNING WOMEN
none of whom read this blog, but whatev PROVE HIM WRONG!!!!! We are built to host another human being inside us and bring them into the world... we can finish the Barkley Marathons. Right?
There is always that fear when watching a documentary that I will want to do whatever it is that's in the documentary. I am happy to report that after watching this documentary, my desire to attempt to try to apply for this race is even LESS than it was before. There is no fucking way. I hope to go and camp and spectate one day... hopefully, I'll be able to spectate for someone near and dear to my heart.
HINT HINT NUDGE NUDGE UNIVERSE.
I do however, hope to run one of Laz's other races one of these days... The Last Annual Vol State 500k.
Anyway, if this doc comes to your town or once it's released to the public, you have GOT to see it. They did right by the race, for sure.