Out There: Famous Ultrarunner Attempts the Barkley Marathons

We all know by now that the Barkley Marathons is brutal — for amateur runners and athletes alike. But how does a world-famous ultrarunner stack up to the challenge?

Belgian ultrarunner Karl Sabbe holds speed records on the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. Now, he’s attempting a run that focuses less on speed and more on endurance: the Barkley Marathons.

The race — which consists of 100 miles back to back through an uncharted course in Tennessee — is so brutal that only 15 people have managed to finish in its history.

Runners are tasked to run five 20-mile loops, within a 60-hour time limit and more than 65,600 feet of elevation gain, plus a devilish scavenger hunt along the way.

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But this hour-long film isn’t just about the Barkleys or the physical race aspects. It’s Sabbe’s entire race journey of how he got there. It’s a deep dive into the mental challenges and obstacles along the way.

About 20 minutes in, you can watch Sabbe’s first try at arguably the most grueling running race in history. Will he make it?


This documentary was made by Fabien Duflos and Tangram Films, in Paris, France.


Mary Murphy
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Mary is based in Denver, Colorado, but frequently travels abroad. Her outdoor interests span from climbing to landscape photography to pack-paddleboarding. If she's not writing, you can most likely find her at the top of a fourteener, or in a local bakery.

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