Friday, December 28, 2007

The Hardest Ultramarathon in the World

There are hundreds of ultramarathons held all over the world. Many like to claim that their run is the most difficult, the most challenging, and only for the most finely-trained athletes. You could polish-off quite a few beers arguing the finer points of the matter, but there is one run that stands far above the rest - The Barkley Marathons run in Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee. It is a 100 mile race essentially composed of five 20-mile laps. With almost 53,000 feet of climbing and descent, all on what can only be marginally called a trail, there is very little actual running. Other quirky elements, such as the books hidden throughout the course from which you must retrieve a page to verify you've covered the course, add to the general mayhem that makes up the run. Since the race started in 1986, only 6 out of over 600 long-distance runners have ever finished the course.

In 2007 The Washington Post sent an intrepid reporter to cover the run. He did an admirable job in trying to explain the sheer insanity of the challenge and tenacity of the runners - Why We Compete - Curiosity. Make sure you look through the interactive map and audio features, which use impressive web technology to give you a sense of the run.

My favorite story about the Barkley is Blake Wood's account of his 2001 run. Endurance Planet provides an mp3 audio of Blake's story, which was featured in Running Through The Wall: Personal Encounters With the Ultramarathon. It gives the Barkley's rich history and Blake's blow by blow account of his amazing adventure and descent into...well, you decide.

Would I ever attempt to run The Barkely Marathons? Oh yes! Would I expect to finish? Hell no. I'm not an idiot. I'd be happy to complete two laps without laying down in the middle of the trail and crying for my Mommie.

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