Is the Barkley Marathons the hardest race in the world

A man is begging on the side of a Tennessee mountain. His clothes are soaking and he desperately sucks at the air. His wife canada goose clearance sale weeps as she huddles with him. Above them stands a bearded buy canada goose jacket cheap figure in a wide brimmed hat and a worn out oilskin duster.

canada goose store "I got all my pages!" pleads the man on the ground. His voice is shrill. "I dropped down the wrong side of the mountain in the fog. I had to swim a river." He gasps for air. "I got all my pages!" canada goose store

canada goose uk outlet Onlookers glance from the broken man on the ground to the inscrutable face of the bearded man. "He got all his pages," repeats a voice in the crowd. "He got all his pages." canada goose uk outlet

For most of us, the 26.2 miles of a marathon are the epitome of athletic endurance. But for others, there are ultramarathons, which stretch to 100 miles or more through some of the world's least hospitable regions. The Marathon des Sables is a six day, 156 mile race across the Sahara Desert. The Hardrock 100 is a 100 mile run canada goose outlet across Colorado's avalanche prone San Juan mountains.

Canada Goose Parka Then there Canada Goose Outlet are the Barkley Marathons. Officially, the race consists of five loops totalling 100 miles through Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee, but most participants believe it's closer to 130 miles. Runners must ascend and descend about 120,000ft of elevation the equivalent of canadian goose jacket climbing up and down Everest twice in just 60 hours. More than 1000 people have attempted to run it. Just 14 have finished. Canada Goose Parka

It costs only $1.60 to enter. An application must be sent to a closely guarded email address at precisely the right minute on the right day, along with an essay titled "Why I Should Be Allowed to Run the Barkley". New runners, known as 'virgins', must bring a licence plate from their state or country. 'Veterans', the returning runners who did not finish, must bring an item of clothing. One year, it was a flannel canada goose store shirt. Another year, it was a white dress shirt. In 2017, it was a pack of white socks. The few who have finished the course and are crazy enough to return, known as 'alumni', need only bring a pack of Camel cigarettes.

cheap canada goose uk The race can begin at any time between midnight and noon on the closest Saturday to April Fool's Day, always exactly an hour after a conch is blown. Runners are not given a map of the course until the afternoon before. GPS is forbidden. cheap canada goose uk

Competitors must locate 13 books along the course and tear out a page that corresponds to their race number. In 2017, the batch included Unravelled, Lost and Found and There Is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self Hate. After each loop, the pages are counted. There are no aid stations. cheap Canada Goose Those unable to finish are serenaded by the Barkley's official bugler, who plays a discordant rendition of Taps.

"The runners come for something they Canada Goose Jackets could fail at," says the course's designer, Gary Cantrell better known among runners as Lazarus 'Laz' Lake. "The less likely it is that they can do it, the more attracted they are to it."

The course was indirectly inspired by James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King Jr's assassin, who escaped from the nearby Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in canada goose 1977. When Ray was recaptured after 56 hours on the run, he had barely travelled eight miles. On hearing this, Laz thought he could have made at least 100 miles. (As it turns out, he couldn't: he has never completed more than two loops of his course.) The race was named after Laz's friend Barry Barkley.

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The first Barkley Marathons were held in 1986. Thirteen canada goose clearance people participated. No one finished. The next year, Laz made the course harder. No one finished. And so on, until 1995, when an Englishman, Mark Williams, fuelled by tea and cheese sandwiches, completed the five loops in 59 hours and 29 minutes.

canada goose factory sale It is check in time at the Frozen Head State Park campground. "Tomorrow, I'll be calling you an evil man," says one runner. "If that's all I'm called," Laz says, "it'll have been a failure." canada goose factory sale

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canada goose uk shop The map is revealed, taped to a picnic table. The runners crowd around to copy the various sections of the course 'Gnarly Mouth', 'Rat's Jaw', 'Hillpocalypse' on to their own maps. They can also consult Laz's directions: "Look for a weird rock at a confluence of two streams and go down a hillside. If it looks too steep, that's the right one." canada goose uk shop

Completing three loops of the Barkley is known as a 'Fun Run'. During the last two loops, however, exhaustion sets in and some runners have even found themselves hallucinating. In 2005, one participant became convinced that there were houses on top of one of the mountains and that he was a rubbish collector sent to empty the bins.

Canada Goose sale Laz says that to finish the Barkley, all you have to do is average two miles an hour for 60 hours. How difficult can that be? A few minutes walking the course gives you some idea. The canada goose black friday sale slopes are so steep that they look like they're folding over you. Canada Goose sale

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Gary Robbins is the favourite to finish the 2017 race. Powerfully built with a shaved head, Robbins specialises in mountain trails. He ran the Barkley canada goose coats on sale for the first time the previous year and got as far as the fifth loop, an impressive feat for a virgin. Behind him is Mike Wardian from Virginia. In January 2017, he completed the World Marathon Challenge, running seven marathons in seven continents in seven days. Heather Anderson is one of six women competing; she broke the women's and men's records for hiking the 2189 mile Appalachian Trail unsupported. Each of Canada Goose sale the 40 competitors has been chosen for his or her particular skill set.

canadian goose jacket On the Friday before the race, the weather is looking favourable. Robbins canada goose coats has even predicted that four runners will start loop five, the most ever. "We've got buy canada goose jacket some really fast people this year," Laz says. "But, you know, speed kills." canadian goose jacket

buy canada goose jacket What does he think of Robbins's chances? "He's good, there's no doubt, but he's put an awful lot of pressure on his shoulders." He points to the hills. "Public opinion ain't going Canada Goose online to mean much when he's out there." So who does Laz think can finish the course? "Well, no one seems to be mentioning John Kelly at all." buy canada goose jacket

uk canada goose outlet Kelly is the local boy. His family has lived on the edge of the park for canada goose deals 200 years. This is Kelly's third attempt at the Barkley. The previous year, he was garrotted by the inch long thorns that lace the course, which left gashes across his neck. By the end of the fourth loop, he was unable to recognise his crew, and he fell asleep less than 100m into the fifth, a spot since christened 'Upper Kelly Camp'. uk canada goose outlet

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By 10pm, conversation has quietened to a murmur. At the yellow gate, which serves as the race's start and finish lines, Laz is glancing at his watch. A harsh note booms through the trees. The conch has been blown! Tents light up. It's 12.42am on Saturday, drizzling and foggy. Fog is the worst weather condition to have at the Barkley. "Headlamps are no use," Laz says. "Everything turns into a wall of white. Turn your headlamp off and it's a wall of black." At 1.42am, instead of firing a starting pistol, Laz lights a cigarette. And with that, the runners are off.

When I meet Laz at his home outside Bell Buckle, Tennessee, three weeks before the race, he is wearing a flannel shirt over awhite dress shirt and, no doubt, a pair of white socks under his boots. A red beanie embossed with the word 'Geezer' covers his thinning hair, which is pulled into a knot. He looks like the hillbilly of your backcountry nightmares, an image only reinforced by Big, his giant red pit bull.

Canada Goose Online Big had been shot in the chest and abandoned when Laz found him. "Someone wanted him for a fighting dog," he tells me, "but he didn't have the nature for it." Laz nursed him back to health, and now the two are inseparable. Despite his fearsome reputation, Laz is not a fighter by nature, either. He pores over history books and writes stories about his dog's adventures, such as the time Big swallowed a whole skunk. Canada Goose Online

Laz's house is nestled in dense woods at the top of a hill. Wrens have nested in a box on the porch, where a spider's web stretches across a chair. Inside, there's a room with half a dozen beds covered with quilts made from Laz's old race T shirts, ready for any itinerant runner who happens to be passing through. The house is full of animal skulls he picked up on runs and arrowheads he collected with his father.

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