The Barkley Marathons – 100 Mile Run: Something You Want To Try?

By Gregory Lloyd / Posted on March 31, 2018

The Barkley course was designed by Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell. His idea for the race was inspired upon hearing about the 1977 escape of James Earl Ray, the assassinof Martin Luther King Jr., from nearby Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. Ray covered only 8 miles (13 km) after running 55 hours in the woods. Cantrell said to himself, “I could do at least 100 miles”, mocking Ray’s low mileage. Thus, the Barkley Marathons was born. Cantrell named the race for his longtime neighbor and running companion, Barry Barkley. It was first run in 1986.

The Barkley is limited to 40 runners, and usually fills up quickly the day registration opens. Requirements and times to submit an entry application are a closely guarded secret, with no details advertised publicly. Potential entrants must complete an essay on “Why I Should be Allowed to Run in the Barkley”, pay a $1.60 application fee, and complete other requirements subject to change. If accepted, an entrant receives a “letter of condolence”. Upon arriving, new entrants (first time runners) are required to bring a license plate from their state/country as part of the entrance. People who have run the race previously are required to mail in an additional “fee” which in the past has included things such as a white shirt, socks, or a flannel shirt, as a donation for being a non-finisher. If an entrant had finished the race previously and is running again, the entrance fee is a pack of Camel cigarettes, which is given to Cantrell at the race. Race number 1 is always given to the person deemed to be the least likely to finish one lap out of all who have applied; a “human sacrifice”, as Cantrell calls it.

How do I enter? Read the FAQ.

Frozen Ed Furtaw has written a book about the Barkley, “Tales From Out There“.

The Barkley is considered one of the toughest 100 mile races in the world. It has 67,000 feet of climb (and 67,000 feet of descent), more than any other 100 mile race, more than the 33,000 ft. of climb at Hardrock, and more than the 45,000 ft. at Nolan’s 14.

Since the race began in 1986, only 15 runners out of about 1000 have finished within the 60 hour cutoff. Mark Williams of the UK finished first in 1995 in 59:28. Here is his race report. In 2001, after several failed attempts, Blake Wood, 42, NM, and David Horton, 50, VA, finished together in 58:21, only to be disqualified for inadvertently leaving the course to follow a parallel route for about 200 yards. This route (on the south side of the stream instead of the north side) has slightly better footing and had been the normal route until 2000.

To give you some idea of the difficulty of this course, Blake had won the 2001 Rocky Raccoon 100 in 16:13, and the 1999 Hardrock 100 in 30:11. David Horton won Hardrock in 29:35 in 1993 and in 1991 set a course record for the Appalachian Trail, 2160 miles in 52 days.

Cave Dog (Ted Keizer) finished in 56:57 in 2003. He holds the Colorado 14er speed record, 54 14,000 ft. peaks in 10 days, 20:26. He also holds speed records in the White Mountains, Adirondacks, and Catskills. (See He trained for 2 weeks on the course before the race.

In 2004 Mike Tilden and Jim Nelson finished in 57:25 and 57:28, running the last loop in opposite directions as required by a rule added the year before. Both have finished Nolan’s 14.

In 2008 Flyin’ Brian Robinson set a course record of 55:42:27. He was the first person to hike the 3 major N-S U.S. trails in a single calendar year: Appalacian, Continental Divide, and Pacific Crest, 7400 miles in 300 days.

In 2009, Andrew Thompson finished in 57:37. In 2005 he set a speed record (since broken) for the Appalachian Trail, 2160 miles in 47 days + 13:31 (breaking Pete Palmer’s record of 48 days + 20:11 in 1999, who took the record from Horton).

In 2010, Johnathan Basham finished in 59:18. He set a course record on the Colorado Trail and currently holds the course record on the Long Trail.

In 2011, Brett Maune finished in 57:13. He holds the John Muir trail speed record. Photo by Abi Meadows.

In 2012, there were 3 finishers for the first time. Brett Maune in 52:03:08 (new course record), Jared Campbell in 56:00:15, and John Fegyveresi in 59:41:21. Course adds Checkmate Hill (1300 ft in 1/2 mile). Weather was warm.

In 2013, Nick Hollon finished in 57:41 and Travis Wildeboer in 58:41. Weather was cold and wet. A new hill was added, “foolish stu”, increasing the total climb to over 60,000 feet.

In 2014, Jared Campbell got his second finish in 57:50. Another new hill, Hiram’s Vertical Smile, brings the total climb to 62,680 ft. Cold rain for loop 1, then clearing.

In 2015 there were 2 fun run finishers and no 100 mile finishers in cold but mostly dry weather.

In 2016, Jared Campbell was the only finisher in 59:32. He is the only 3 time finisher. Weather was cold and dry.

In 2017, John Kelly finished in 59:30. Gary Robbins made a wrong turn with 2 miles to go and returned 6 seconds over the 60 hour cutoff. Fog on loop 1, then sunny and warm, storms on loop 5. Course changes direction each loop instead of every other loop. 67,000 ft climb.

The Barkley consists of 5 20-mile loops with no aid except for water at two points. The cutoffs for the 100 mile race are 12 hours per loop. The 60 mile “fun run” has a cutoff of 40 hours, or 13:20 per loop. To prove you completed each loop, you must find 9 to 11 books (varies) at various points along the course and return a page from each book.

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2018 Results

Mar. 24, 2018. 9:33 AM start. No finishers. 5 completed loop 2 in thunderstorms. Gary Robbins was the only finisher of the fun run.

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