Race director clarifies dramatic finish of near-miss at 2017 Barkley Marathons

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These athletes are only getting richer after leaving the field
Wednesday April 5th, 2017

Remember the guy who ultramarathoner who finished a 100-mile race just six seconds over the 60-hour cut-off time? Turns out his finish wouldn't have counted anyway.

Gary Cantrell, the Barkley Marathons race director, issued a statement clarifying that even if Canadian Gary Robbins finished the 100-mile race under the 60-mile cut-off, Robbins' finish would not have counted after he took a wrong turn and left the course.

The Barkleys Marathons garnered fame after a documentary with the ominous subtitle “The Race That Eats Its Young” was released in 2016. In addition to its 60,000 feet of elevation gain, which adds to the physical difficulty, the race has its fun quirks. It is limited to 40 runners through a secretive race registration process that includes a $1.60 entry fee and requires runners to bring a license plate from their home state or country. There’s no official start time but it can go off at any time from midnight to noon on the designated race day. A conch is sounded to signal one-hour until the start and then the race begins when a cigarette is lit by Cantrell.

Participants have to locate pages from books that have been scattered throughout the park. This ensures that the participant followed the race map. Each runner is given a race number to correspond with the book’s page that they need. Competitors get a new race number and a new page requirement for each lap. There are no aid stations or markers so runners must follow a map that is provided the night before the start.

On Monday afternoon, John Kelly became just the 15th finisher of the race, which started in 1986. Robbins reached the yellow gate finish just six seconds over the 60-hour cut-off. He had all his pages and collapsed to the ground.

Watch the thrilling finish below:

In a blog post Robbins admitted that he made a wrong turn and went off the course.

"The Barkley Marathons is not an orienteering style race. You do not get to select the route that best favors you between books. You need to navigate between books, off trail, but in a very specific direction of travel. My finish, even if it were 6 seconds faster would not have counted. I put Laz and the race in a precarious situation and in hindsight I'm glad I was six seconds over so that we didn't have to discuss the validity of my finish."

Cantrell issued the following statement:

i wish i had never said 6 seconds...gary had just come in after having run off course and missing the last 2 miles of the barkley. that is, of course, not a finish.i do, however, always record when runners come in,whether they are finishing a loop, or not.so, i had looked at the watch, even tho there was no possibility that he would be counted as a finisher. so, when someone asked if he had gotten in before the limit; i foolishly answered. i never expected the story to somehow become that he had missed the time limit by 6 seconds. he failed to complete the course by 2 miles. the time, in that situation, is meaningless. i hate it, because this tale perpetuates the myth that the barkley does not have a course. the barkley is a footrace. it is not an orienteering contest, nor a scavenger hunt. the books are nothing more than unmanned checkpoints. the boston marathon has checkpoints. and you have to show up at all of them or you can be disqualified... that does not mean you are allowed to follow any route you choose between checkpoints. now, the class with which gary handled this terrible disappoinment at the end of a truly magnificent performance...that was exceptional, and is, in and of itself, a remarkable achievement. but he did not miss the time limit by 6 seconds. he failed to complete the barkley by 2 miles. - laz"

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