World’s toughest ultra marathon? International runners gather in East Tennessee for 2017 Barkley Marathons

Runners must complete 100 miles in 60 hours through grueling Frozen Head State Park

WARTBURG (WATE) – In the Cumberland Range of Tennessee there is a notorious and secretive ultramarathon called the Barkley Marathons.

Each year forty participants will travel 100 miles in Frozen Head State Park. Runners, which traveled to the park from all over the world must finish in 60 hours.

The race is considered one of the toughest 100-mile races in the world.  It has 59,100 feet of climb, 59,100 feet of descent with a 33,000 and 45,000-foot climb.

“The mind–what it does to your mind to trick you into everything. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen out there because of that. You’re out there, it’s not just your legs and navigation skills it’s how much you can keep coping with pain and keep moving.” said Giullaum Arthus, a first-time Barkley Marathons runner from Paris, France.

Qualifying for the race in itself is a secret in itself. There are no online application instructions, the date to apply is never announced, and participants aren’t usually announced until after the race is over. What is known– athletes must donate a license plate from their home state.

“The mind– what it does to your mind to trick you into everything. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen out there because of that. You’re out there, it’s not just your legs and navigation skills it’s how much you can keep coping with pain and keep moving.”  said Arthus.

The ultra marathon has a 30-year history. One thousand athletes have tried to complete the course but only fourteen succeeded.

“Being out in the woods by myself, not knowing when the race is gonna start, not knowing what I’m looking for, not running on a single trail head in Frozen State Park, is a big challenge.” said Michael Wardian, a Champion Marathoner and Ultra Marathoner.

The race course consists of five 20-mile loops that must be completed in under 12 hours each. To prove you completed each loop, you must find 9 to 11 books (varies) at various points along the course and return a page from each book. Runners visit campsites throughout their journey, but get little rest during the weekend.

Runners in the Barkley Marathons copy directions on a map. They are not allowed a GPS.

Gary Cantrell, the race creator, starts the race by blowing a conch horn anytime between 11 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday. When runners hear the conch, they have one hour to prepare for the start of the race.

Jared Campbell, an endurance athlete based near Salt Lake City, Utah. Campbell, 36, also is the only person to complete the Barkley three times. Campbell finished the five loops in about 59 hours and 30 minutes in 2016.

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