Any acceptance letter that starts with ‘it is my unfortunate duty to inform you that your name has been selected for the 2016 Barkley Marathon’ has got to be a little disconcerting! And for this epic, if not totally insane race, being accepted in itself is an achievement. There is no website, no online application or instructions – so you need to find out how to apply – and then there are only 35 coveted places and very few (let me rephrase that .. almost no) finishers.
This is a race unlike any other. There are no course markings and no aid stations. You get a map, some coordinates, and you go find hidden books in the forest and pull out the page that matches your bib number to prove you found the checkpoints. No GPS is allowed, just a good old fashioned map and compass. And each time someone finishes the course, the course is changed to make it harder the following year. Of course, this was not an issue in 2015, as there were no finishers!
Gary describes it as ‘the greatest physical and mental challenge of his life’ and he has been dreaming and preparing for it for the last few years.
The course (if you can call it that!) is 100 miles of bushwacking – 5 x 20 mile loops – with a time limit of 12 hours for each loop. Only 14 people out of the 800 or so who have made it to the start line, have ever finished to date .. so Gary is hoping to be the 15th! Read Gary’s blog to get an idea of the extensive training he has put in for it, including an all-nighter on the north shore mountains. Watch the video here.
Netflix has just released a documentary of the Barkley Challenge, which has just about gone viral. You need to watch it! Great entertainment for runners and non-runners alike!