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Articles tagged #Barkley Marathons
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A Response from a Proud “Lazy Parasite” Trail Runner

Marc Peruzzi’s recent Ouside magazine column about trail work clearly touched a nerve in the running community. Part of his argument is fair criticism, but he got some important things wrong.

I’ve been a competitive trail runner for over a decade; I’ve participated in some of the most well-known and competitive ultras around the world, including the Barkley Marathons, the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, and the Western States Endurance Run.

I’ve also been a human rights lawyer for about the same period of time, and I take a deep interest in how we in the trail and ultrarunning community contribute to broader society. I know I’m not alone in this—as trail runners, many of us pride ourselves on being responsible stewards of our environment and contributing members in the outdoor sports community. We pick up trash left behind on the trails by inconsiderate urbanites. We don’t cut switchbacks, and we know how deep a hole to dig to bury our own poop (minimum: six inches).

We see ourselves as the “good ones”—runners who lightly tiptoe along mountain and forest paths, leaving no trace. Our intimate connection with the outdoors makes us protective of the wilderness that we enjoy, and that is something we hold tightly as part of our culture and identity as runners.

Given all that, it’s no surprise that when Outside published an article on May 22 calling trail runners “lazy parasites” and “deadbeats,” the reaction from the trail and ultrarunning community was swift and fierce. The writer, Marc Peruzzi, claimed that we simply aren’t pulling our weight when it comes to trail work. “When compared to mountain bikers and hikers, trail runners are the least likely to volunteer to build and maintain trails,” Peruzzi wrote. Leaning heavily on anecdotal evidence to back up his views, Peruzzi tried to hit us right where he knew it would hurt—and it did.

Candice Burt, an elite ultrarunner and the race director of the Triple Crown 200 mile series, wrote in a response on her website that she was shocked when she read the article. “I have no issue with asking user groups to do more to give back,” she wrote. “However, this article was not so much a call to action as it was a full on insulting diatribe aimed at my community.” For her part, Burt wrote about how she organizes an annual volunteer work party to maintain trails that would otherwise cease to exist, and how her company donates over $20,000 to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association for building and maintaining trails. “Trail running and stewardship are my life,” she wrote, “[It] has always been an important part of the trail running culture.” Many others in the trail community echoed her reaction.

A number of prominent ultramarathon races in North America in addition to Fat Dog and Burt’s 200 mile race series, require volunteer service from entrants, typically in the form of eight hours of trail maintenance. (Peruzzi briefly acknowledged this in his story.) These races include the Western States Endurance Run, the Vermont 100 Endurance Race, Angeles Crest 100 miler, and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run. 

In short, we in the trail running community know that we aren’t the lazy parasites and deadbeats Peruzzi claims we are. So why does he have this impression? And are we taking his criticism so personally because there is a kernel of truth to it? Could we be doing more?

The short answer is yes, we could be doing more. Adam Chase, the President of the American Trail Running Association (ATRA), responded to Peruzzi’s article on Facebook by saying: “I must confess. We are guilty as charged…we need [to do] more. A lot more.” Indeed, as trail running continues to increase in popularity, it will become even more important that we expand our volunteer and conservation efforts.

Clare Gallagher, an elite ultrarunner and environmental activist, has not been shy in calling us out on this and urging us to do more, long before Peruzzi’s story was published. “If we are not engaging with the politics of public land protections, we are freeloading,” she wrote in September 2017.

While I’m more than willing to admit that we need to do more as a community, I refuse to accept the suggestion that we are lazy deadbeats who “are the least likely to volunteer to build and maintain trails,” as Peruzzi claims.

Does that mean that we aren’t deeply involved at a grassroots level or that we don’t care? Hell no. We may be a ragtag bunch, but we are compassionate and committed. From the moment I joined this community, I understood that the expectation was to give back, whether through trail work, guided running for visually impaired athletes, or simply picking up garbage left behind by others. Advertising these good deeds was certainly not required, and it was maybe even discouraged. 

But rather than engage in a pissing contest with our fellow athletes over who is doing more to protect our common lands, I’d prefer to join forces to make us all more effective. 

The definition of a parasite is something that exists by taking from or depending on something else. In that sense, I will happily embrace Peruzzi’s label. I am a trail running parasite: I truly rely on the trails to exist. For that reason, I see it as my duty to ensure that the trails I run on—and all the ones I haven’t yet—are protected. I will do this by working alongside my trail running companions, and learning from my mountain biking colleagues. The only way to make progress on these issues is to band together, not drive each other apart. As for the rest of Peruzzi’s article? Well, it’s going in a six-inch hole, where it belongs. See you out on the trail.

(Editor’s note:  this is a condensed version of Stephanie’s article.  Click on the link to read her entire article.). 

(06/09/2019) ⚡AMP
by Stephanie Case for Outside Online

No finisher at Barkley Marathons 2019

It might be hard to imagine a race in which the entire field DNFs, but it’s not unusual at the Barkley Marathons, and it happened for the second year in a row as the race came to an end earlier this morning. The results were somewhat better than last year, with six Fun Runs recorded (three 20-mile loops in under 40 hours). Last year Canadian Gary Robbins was the only runner to achieve a Fun Run, and there were no finishers. 

Last night with only two minutes to go before the 9:23 p.m. cutoff, Karel Sabbe and Greig Hamilton set off on loop four. Shortly afterwards, Guillaume Calmettes arrived in camp, well within the cutoff for a Fun Run (which was 1:23 a.m. Monday) but too late to be allowed to attempt a fourth loop. He was tapped out (referring to the playing of Taps by a bugler for each runner who DNFs). 

Tomokazu Ihara, Johan Steene and Jamil Coury all finished Fun Runs last night, but were tapped out upon returning to camp.

Greig Hamilton was the first to say “uncle” on loop four. Sabbe hung in for another few hours before packing it in and returning to camp around 3:30 a.m.

Gary Robbins noted the significance of the final two to drop out being Barkley “virgins.” Sabbe, a dentist from Belgium, got a lot of attention for setting the most recent FKT on the Appalachian Trail in August 2018. Hamilton, who is from Christchurch, New Zealand, was the 2016 world champion in rogaining (long-distance orienteering).

But at the Barkley Marathons, your race pedigree means very little. Two of this year’s strongest contenders, John Kelly and Jared Campbell, shocked everyone following with their early DNFs. 2017 finisher Kelly, with a strong lead after two laps, headed for his tent for a nap, emerging later to announce he no longer wanted to continue, and tapped himself out on the bugle. Campbell, with three Barkley finishes on his resume, kept fans guessing for hours as to his whereabouts after rolling his ankle badly on the first loop.


(04/01/2019) ⚡AMP

2019 Barkley Marathons is 'love and puppies' for Laz

Some of the world's best runners are in Morgan County for this weekend's Barkley Marathons, a brutal 100-mile race that only 15 people have finished in 33 years.

Elite ultra-marathoners from six continents packed the campsite at Frozen Head State Park on Friday in Wartburg, Tenn.  Now they patiently wait for the unpredictable start of the Barkley Marathons, a sinister 100-mile race filled with obstacles that pester routine-loving runners.

"There is nothing out there but love and puppies," laughed Gary Cantrell as he read the text on this year's shirt. "I think we'll have a higher finish-rate because of the positive wholesome attitude this year. Aren't there little hearts up in this corner [of my shirt]?"

Cantrell, also known as Lazarus Lake or Laz, helped concoct the ridiculous race that only 15 people have finished in 33 years. Some runners are repeat-finishers, making a total of 18 times someone has completed the 100-mile race within the 60-hour time limit.

If you have missed WBIR's many reports on the Barkley Marathons in previous years, here is a brief synopsis of the event:  Runners write an essay and apply for entry in the Barkley Marathons.  40 runners are chosen each year from around the world.

Runners have 60 hours to complete five loops of 20+ miles through Frozen Head State Park.  The course is unmarked and changes every year.

Runners get a map (poorly-drawn) of the course before the race begins.  The start time is unknown, other than sometime between midnight and noon on Saturday.

A conch shell is blown to signal one hour until the start.  Laz lights a cigarette to begin the race.

The yellow gate at the campsite and Brushy Mountain prison are always part of the route.  Keeping with Laz's positive attitude, there has technically been a winner every year of the Barkley: a runner or the mountain.

"The mountain has been winning a lot more often than the runners. I think it has won 1,302 and been beaten 18 times," said Cantrell.

(03/30/2019) ⚡AMP

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 50 F (10 C) and 68 F (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.  

(03/29/2019) ⚡AMP

These are the eight Gnarliest Races in the World and only a few have crossed the finish line

The popularity of running ultras has skyrocketed over the past few years. But what happens when you take away the road and most of your sanity? You get some of the gnarliest races out there, where mistakes can be fatal and merely crossing the finish line in one piece counts as a victory. Here are some of the toughest: 1. Jungle Ultra: Runners cover 142.6 miles through the humid Peruvian jungle in a five-stage, self-supported race. 2. Alaska Mountain Wilderness Challenge: More than 100 miles of wild Alaskan terrain. There’s no route or GPS, and participants must be skilled in self-rescue (and carry a SAT phone). 3. Self Transcendence 3100 Mile: Runners must cover 3,100 miles in 52 days by completing 5,649 mind-numbing laps around one city block. 4. Plain 100: Washington’s Cascades, 35 runners a year attempt 100 unsupported miles on remote trails and forest service roads. 5. Iditarod Trail Invitational: 1,000-mile course through Alaskan wilderness from Knik Lake to Nome on foot 6. 6633 Ultra: 350-mile race, runners cross the Arctic Circle 7. Barkley Marathons: 100-mile unsupported Barkley in the Tennessee backcountry has only been finished 16 times since its start in 1986. 8. Dragon's Back Race: five days of castle-to-castle “trail” running across the Welsh wilderness, runners will cover about 186 miles and climb roughly 51,000 feet over unmarked and often trackless, craggy terrain. (Click link for five more and details from Outside Online) (04/01/2018) ⚡AMP

No one finished the gruelling Barkley Marathons race this year

At the 2018 Barkley Marathons, it was the course -- not its runners -- that was the victor again. “The weather and the course got the better of everybody this year,” said Geoff Langford of Ridgeline Events, This year’s racers faced rain, lightning and cold temperatures. The full five-loop course must be completed in 60 hours, or 12-hours per each 32-kilometre loop. If runners complete the first three loops in under 40 hours, it is considered a successful completion of the “fun run” version of the race, though that is usually a failed attempt at the main event. To mark a runner’s failure, a bugle is played. (03/27/2018) ⚡AMP

The Barkley Marathons participants are in for a world of Hurt this weekend

Elite runners from around the globe are in for a world of hurt this weekend during the annual 100-mile Barkley Marathons in Morgan County.

The Barkley Marathons has grown from a small and ridiculous race in Morgan County, Tennessee, into an international phenomenon followed around the globe.

The brainchild of former ultra-marathoner Gary Cantrell has especially grown in popularity in the last few years, coinciding with the release of a documentary on Netflix and other high-profile media coverage. The added media attention is a burden and a blessing.

The media can help inform people about the event while also allowing them to stay away. "It is not a spectator event. I hate it, because everyone wants a piece of that feeling [of the Barkley Marathons]. We just don't have room for people to come here and watch. This is all set up at a small campground. The runners are gone for several hours at a time in the middle of the woods. We need the media to let people know about the race because that's the best way for them to experience it," said Cantrell.

The hoopla is the result of true substance. The race is as intriguing as it is insane. Runners have to complete five 20-mile loops up and down the hills of Frozen Head State Park within 60 hours. Runners do not know when the race will start, other than sometime between midnight and noon on Saturday.

They are given one-hour advance notice of the start when Cantrell blows a conch shell. The race begins when Cantrell lights a cigarette.

(03/23/2018) ⚡AMP

This race is considered the Coldest Ultramarathon on the Planet

The Yukon Arctic Ultra conditions sound like that of a frozen tundra nightmare in what could be the Canadian equivalent of the Barkley Marathons. Race director Robert Pollhammer posted on Facebook on Thursday that South African Jethro De Decker was the lone runner to make it to the finish line of the 300-miler (483K). Temperatures were at or below -40 for almost the entire week that the race went on. “It was a tough year, Many of the participants of the 300-miler, were taken off course and treated for frostbite and/or hypothermia at the hospital," says Robert. For sure this is the Coldest Ultramarathon... (02/08/2018) ⚡AMP
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