100+ Miles Thru Mountains… ‘Barkley Marathons’ Is Nearly-Impossible Race

The Barkley Marathons is one of the toughest races in the world, with just 16 finishes (by only 14 different runners) since 1995. A couple weeks ago, Jared Campbell became just the second person to finish it twice.

Now, the group Fractured Atlas is raising funds to complete a documentary called “Barkley Marathons: The Trail That Eats Its Young.” See the trailer below, which is itself pretty intense.

What makes the Barkley so tough? Getting in is difficult enough. You’ll need to write a compelling “Why I Should Be Allowed to Run Barkley” essay and hope that it gets forwarded from the address at which the shadowy race director used to but no longer resides.



He still lives somewhere in the same small town, so your chances are fair it’ll get where it needs to go, but whether he actually finds it worthy of one of only 35 annual entries is another matter.

If you are one of the “lucky” few who are accepted entry, your fees will consist of $1.65 and a license plate from your home state. Seriously.

Things just get weirder from there. The start on race day can occur at any point after midnight or before nightfall. Just listen for the blow of a conch shell and you’ll know you have an hour to gather your things and get to the start line.

After that, it’s just a matter of navigating the wicked terrain of Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park for 100+ miles while collecting torn pages from a book to prove that you’ve covered the distance on each of five potential loops. Miss any of the loop cutoff times or drop/lose/forget to fetch those pages and you’re out.

You’ve got 60 hours.

Cheer up, you only have to make it through three loops to be credited with completion of an esteemed “Fun Run.” This race doesn’t make it to many people’s bucket list, but it would be amazing to see an entire documentary on this test of human limits. —Leon Lutz

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Managing Editor Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in Denver, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

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