Barkley Marathon Mastermind Lazarus Lake to Appear on HBO’s ‘Real Sports’

The fairly odd and elusive Lazarus Lake is gracing HBO to talk about how he created the Barkley Marathons.

HBO’s new “Real Sports” episode features a profile on the genesis of the “notorious and treacherous Barkley Marathons,” held annually in Frozen Head State Park, Tenn. HBO correspondent Mary Carillo will be interviewing race founder Gary Cantrell (aka Lazarus Lake) to discuss the backstory of one of the most challenging races in existence.

“The Barkleys,” as it’s also called, is a series of five back-to-back marathons through a difficult maze of trails, with over 100,000 feet of elevation and, of course, a time limit. Only 15 participants have ever finished. As Cantrell put it, the race organizers aim for about a 1% success rate — just a step above impossible. “There’s no mercy in sports, is there?” he joked.

“With only 60 hours to complete the race, runners are tasked with navigating through unenviable conditions, including temperature swings, rain, and even snow,” HBO teased in a press release. The episode will dive a bit into the history of the race and, more importantly, interview Cantrell on the quirky, grueling details.

The Barkley Marathons episode premieres on “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” on HBO tonight at 7 p.m. PST/10 p.m. EST. Watch live or stream on HBO Max.


Gary Cantrell conceived the Barkley Marathons after James Earl Ray escaped from a maximum-security prison in the Tennessee mountains in 1977. Ray only managed to travel 8 miles in about 60 hours before authorities found him. Cantrell suggested he could run 100 miles in that amount of time — and thus the race was born.

a woman running through a forest at night with shining headlamp during the 2019 Barkley marathons
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Mary Murphy
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Mary is based out of GearJunkie's Denver, Colo. office. She has a degree in English and journalism, and has been writing professionally for more than six years. Her outdoor interests span from running to sport climbing, from landscape photography to skiing 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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