I listed the Barkley Marathon in my Five Favorite running documentaries list HERE. If you haven’t watched it, definitely check it out!
Now, I wasn’t the only one in my family that was fascinated by this crazy race- my sister Cresta was too! So as the host of Thanksgiving this year, she organized a family fun run version of this race- our own “Barkley 5k.”
Rather than 100+ miles like the real Barkley Marathon, ours was a much more managable 3.1 miles.
I’ll remind you that each year, my family runs some sort of race together- either an organized Thanksgiving race, like this year, or an independent family one like last year. We’ve been doing this as a family for many years, so no one was surprised when my sister announced that this year would be a “Barkley 5k”, loosely based on the Barkley Marathon.
If you haven’t heard of the Barkley Marathon, here’s a quick synopsis:
“Every year, 40 international runners descend upon a small town in Tennessee to test their mental and physical limits against the Barkley Marathons. Devised as a mockery of James Earl Ray’s historic prison escape gone awry, the race has seen only 10 finishers in its first 25 years. The race’s co-founder Lazarus Lake is as weird, unpredictable, and irresistible a character as the idiosyncratic event he has created. With a secret application process, unknown start time, and treacherous terrain, the Barkley has gained cult-like status with ultra-runners and amateurs alike. This award-winning, oddly inspiring, and wildly funny documentary invites you to the sports world’s most guarded secret; where pain has value, failure is spectacular, and it only costs $1.60.”
The Barkley Marathons is an ultramarathon trail race held in Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, Tennessee. Runners may elect a “fun run” of 60 miles (97 km) or the full course of 100 miles (160 km) (distances are approximate). The race is run over a 60-hour period in late March or early April of each year.
Runners of the 100-mile version run this loop five times, running loops two and four in darkness, taking a counterclockwise direction for loops three and four, followed by each runner alternating direction on loop five, after the first-placed runner’s choice. Runners of the 60-mile “fun run” complete three circuits of the loop.
So our “Barkley 5k” took place on a one-mile loop at a nearby park. Runners ran one direction for loop 1, the opposite direction for loop 2, and “runner’s choice” for loop 3, somewhat similar to the Barkley.