No runner was able to successfully complete the 2018 Barkley Marathons. Only 15 runners have finished the race in its 32-year history.
The Barkley Marathons, made popular to many runners from the documentary “The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young”, is one of the toughest ultramarathons in the world. Runners have 60 hours to complete five laps of about 20-miles for a total 100-mile distance that also includes about 60,000 feet of elevation gain through woods, creeks and mountains in Tennessee's Frozen Head State Park.
The race has its own peculiar 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 is no prize money for winners or finishers. 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 race director Gary Cantrell.
The course changes from year to year and runners are given a map to where book checkpoints are stashed throughout the woods. 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.
Last year, John Kelly was the lone finisher. The race garnered national media attention when Gary Robbins of North Vancouver, British Columbia reached the yellow gate that marks the finish line just six seconds over the 60-hour cut-off. It turned out that Robbins made a wrong turn and veered off the course so if he had finished on time it would not have counted. Cantrell issued a statement clarifying the finish.
Robbins entered this year's race looking to finally finish the Barkley Marathons in his third attempt. The race officially started on March 24. He was one of two remaining runners who was able to attempt a third loop. Robbins and Guillaume Calmettes of Los Angeles, California were unable to complete the third loop under the 36-hour limit to continue. Robbins reportedly finished his third lap in 36:12:12:54. This meant that the 2018 Barkley Marathons would have no official finishers for the first time since 2015.
When a runner is unable to finish the race, a bugler plays "Taps."
Watch "Taps" play for Robbins below:
Robbins managed to complete a "Fun Run" which is three loops under 40 hours.