One Dirty Magazine

Photo Gallery: 2017 Barkley Marathons

Moments from the 2017 Barkley Marathons.

Administrator April 13th, 2017

  • Since Barkley has no course markings, the only way runners can prove they followed the course is by locating 13 books which are spread throughout the course. Upon returning to the yellow gate, each runner presents Laz with their 13 pages. Here, race founder and director Laz is checking to see if Garry Robbins has all 13 pages from loop one.
  • Megan Farrell, of New Hampshire, at the pre-race check in on Friday, March 31. She was the first women to come in from loop one, in 10:51:53. She started the second loop, but did not successfully complete it.
  • Michael Versteeg, 31, and Jamil Coury, 32, discuss the details of the course. On the Friday before the race, entrants are given written course directions and then are allowed to copy the course map on to their own maps from the single master copy that Laz has made.
  • Heather Anderson and Adam Lint carefully study the master map. Many racers will also annotate compass bearings for each section, to aid in navigation. Anderson and Lint ran together for the first loop, but failed to complete the second loop.
  • Michael Wardian trying to make sense of the infamous Barkley course. He got lost very early in the fog and came in from loop one far over the time limit of 13 hours 20 minutes.
  • Johan Steene returning to camp from loop one. Steene was one of four starters out of 40 to earn a "fun run" finish, which is completion of three loops.
  • Sean Ranney and Johan Steene tap the gate for a "fun run" finish in 37 hours 53 minutes. To complete the "fun run," runners have to complete three loops in 40 hours (13 hours 20 minutes per loop). Runners must complete the first three loops in under 36 hours to be able to continue on loop four and try for the full 100-mile run.
  • Long time Barkley entrants Robert Youngren and Erik Storheim stand solemnly for their rendition of taps. They had completed the "fun run" in 39 hours three minutes, meaning they could not go on to loop four. Per Barkley tradition, a bugler will play taps for any runner who "taps out" by failing to complete the full five loops.
  • Adam Lint and Heather Anderson at the top of Rat Jaw, an infamous climb that gains 2000 feet in one mile, and is covered in briars. While this part of the slope isn't terribly steep, the lower sections are pretty brutal. The briars are usually cut once per year, by prisoners. In some years when they are not cut, they can be over six feet tall.
  • Heading down Rat Jaw on loop 2, Garry Robbins follows behind John Kelly, who would become the 2017 Barkley's sole finisher. Kelly and Robbins would remain together throughout the first four loops before being forced to go opposite directions on loop five. One of the biggest challenges at Barkley is navigation, and many runners team up in order to make the route finding somewhat easier.
  • Jamil Coury, moments after returning from loop three for a potential fun run finish just under the 40 hour cutoff. Only problem: when he reached the gate, surrounded by a crowd of cheering spectators, he told Laz, "I didn't get to all the books..." He knew he would be over the limit and took one of the park trails back to camp.
  • After John Kelly had finished in 59 hours 30 minutes 53 seconds, the waiting game began. Here he peers over the yellow gate looking for signs of Gary on the trail off of Bird Mt that leads into camp.
  • With the 60 hour time limit nearly expired, Robbins appeared from the opposite direction as expected and was running as hard as he could to make the gate. Collapsing on the ground after tapping the gate, he told of making a wrong turn in the fog merely two miles from the finish and retuned to camp via a different route although he had all 13 books.

Photos by Howie Stern.

It is no coincidence that the Barkley Marathons take place on April fools weekend. Widely considered the toughest 100-mile race in the world, the Barkley has a finishing rate of less than one percent, and goes many years without seeing a finisher at all. It is designed to test the limits of even the fastest, winningest runners.

The race takes place on a looped course in the thick, briar-filled woods of Frozen Head State Park, in rural Tennessee. Runners must complete the 20-mile loop five times in under 60 hours- 12 hours per loop- in order to earn a coveted finish. Three loops in under 40 hours is considered a “fun run.”

This year’s Barkley saw its 15th finisher, John Kelly, 32, of Washington, D.C. The only other runner to start loop five was Gary Robbins, 38, of North Vancouver, B.C. In one of the most dramatic scenes in the race’s history, Robbins came within screaming distance of a finish before becoming disoriented in the final miles and taking a wrong turn, ultimately cutting two miles off the course and earning a DNF.

[Watch the video of both Kelly and Robbins’ finish here.]

Aside from the loop-five showdown, Barkley also saw four fun-run finishers and a host of valiant efforts in the early loops, including runs by prolific racer Mike Wardian, unsupported Colorado Trail FKT-holder Brandon Stapanowich, supported Arizona Trail FKT-holder Michael Veersteeg and current unsupported Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail record-holder Heather Anderson.

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