Barkley Marathons 2024

She’s only gone and bloody done it!

The Barkley Marathons is a notoriously difficult race. If you haven’t heard of it, it is a nominally 100-mile race (nobody is sure how long it really is) that consists of five 20-mile laps through Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee. The elevation gain is huge and much of it is off-trail running. It contains many cult elements: the start time can be any time from midnight to noon for example and is announced an hour before when a conch is blown.

There is a 12-hour cut-off for each lap, giving athletes 60 hours in total. The terrain is so tough that most years nobody finishes. Though, if you manage 3 laps within the first 40 hours, you at least get a “Fun Run”. There have been various documentaries made about it including The Race That Eats Its Young, Where Dreams Go To Die, and Last Woman Standing which followed British ultrarunning legend Nicky Spinks trying to be the first woman to complete the race.

Enter the 2024 race where a star-studded line up. This included last year’s winner, AurĂ©lien Sanchez, Jared Campbell attempting to get a record 4th finish, and Jasmin Paris who had a Fun Run under her belt and until this year held the out-right course record for the Spine Race which she famously set while expressing milk for her baby at the aid stations.

Either conditions were good or the field is getting stronger as a record 12 people achieved a Fun Run this year. It may have also helped that the race started at 5:17, allowing the first, third and final lap to be done in daylight. This meant a record 7 athletes were able make it to lap 5 before the 48-hour cut-off. The most finishers ever had been three, set in 2012 (the year The Race That Eats Its Young was filmed) and repeated again in 2023.

Sebastian Raichon and former Spine men’s course record holder (still two hours slower than Parsis’s time) Damian Hall dopped out leading five athletes out on the course. The only way to follow it is to follow Keith Dunn’s Twitter feed. Elon must have been delighted that people were briefly using it again as we all desperately refreshed for news and chatted on WhatsApp.

Ihor Verys was the first to come home with an hour and a quarter still to go before the 60-hour cut-off. John Kelly arrived 30 minutes later to briefly equal Jared Campbell’s three finishes until 15 minutes later, Campbell himself arrived back to set a record 4th finish. Greig Hamilton came in 9 minutes later, leaving Paris the only athlete left on the course with 19 minutes to get home.

We continued to madly refresh the Twitter feed as the 9:17 pm GMT deadline passed. No news. Then, a few minutes after the cut-off had passed, Keith tweeted to say Paris had made it home! At 59:58:21, she made it home 99 seconds before the deadline making her the first ever woman to finish the race!

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This entry was posted on Monday, March 25th, 2024 at 11:00 am and is filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.