Nicky Spinks is hoping to be the first woman to finish the Barkley marathons

The Barkley Marathons, which is “rumoured” to take place this weekend, is surrounded by folklore about prison escapes and encounters with wild boar. If you’ve never been to Frozen Head, you might think of it as a mysterious, forbidding place whose only reason for existence is as the site of Laz Lake’sinfamous 100-miler.

But Jamil Coury who is returning to the Barkley for the fifth time this year, you’ll see that it’s just a state park like any other, with trails and campgrounds where families go to relax a little later in the season, just like they do in state, national and provincial parks across North America.

Coury and another Barkley veteran, Guillaume Calmettes of France, spent a few days together last month, running the trails in Frozen Head to get in shape for this year’s race. They make Frozen Head look positively benign.

Last year there were no finishers, thanks largely to terrible weather. Spring weather can be unpredictable anywhere, and last year Frozen Head got walloped with a massive rainstorm, dense fog and cold temperatures on race weekend.

Running five 20-mile loops in 60 hours with no course markings and no organized aid stations is hard enough–add bad weather to the mix, and any hopes of finishing were dashed for most people after a loop or two. Gary Robbins completed a “fun run,” three loops in under 40 hours.

This year could be a different story. The forecast for Frozen Head is for temperatures of between 10 C and 20 C, with thunderstorms possible on Saturday.

We’ve also just learned that Nicky Spinks is among the starters. The British ultrarunner ran a double Ramsay Round last year, has also run a double Bob Graham Round, and crewed for Damian Hall at UTMB last year.

Let’s hope the will be some finishers this year.  

posted Friday March 29th