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The course has won again.
For the fifth year in a row, there were no finishers at the infamous Barkley Marathons. An incredibly deep field was lined up to face the beast. This included a mix of Barkley veterans like Courtney Dauwalter, and 2017 and 15th-person ever Barkley finisher John Kelly and strong Barkley virgins like Big’s Backyard record holder Harvey Lewis, 2017 Big’s champion Guillaume Calmettes, and Appalachian Trail FKT holder and Belgian dentist Karel Sabbe.
The 2022 Barkley Marathons is over. There are no finishers. #BM100
— Keith (@keithdunn) March 10, 2022
Other runners like Amelia Boone, Gary Robbins, and Johan Steene were originally slated for the 2022 race, but dropped out due to injuries, moving on, and testing positive at the airport, respectively.
The 2022 edition was particularly heavy on international runners after the cancellation of the 2020 edition and pandemic-related travel restrictions for the 2021 race.
For the 2022 race, Barkley creator Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell threw one of the biggest curveballs in race history, holding the event three weeks ahead of when it normally runs around April 1. Additionally, he held the race in the middle of the week with the race starting on Tuesday, March 8.
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There were concerns that the earlier time slot could create more difficult weather challenges, but when the conch was blown at 5:54 a.m. on Tuesday, relatively average Barkley conditions awaited.
The race started cold but warmed up a lot during the day. Runners seemed to favor this, with a total of 30 out of 38 runners completing the first loop and starting a second. This was a Barkley record.
However, when night fell on day one, so did freezing rain. This was reminiscent of the 2019 race when rain took out most of the field overnight.
As a result, only five were able to start a Fun Run loop, which is three loops. This group included Sabbe, Kelly, British runner Jasmin Paris, New Zealander Greig Hamilton, and Danish runner Thomas Dunkerbeck. Paris is the first woman in a decade to complete a Fun Run.
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Of these five, Sabbe, Kelly, and Hamilton were able to finish three loops with time to start the fourth loop. Sabbe came in first from loop three in 32:21:49 and left just under 20 minutes later. Hamilton returned to camp in 34:20:39 and left for loop four with daylight 34 minutes later.
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Kelly came into camp at 35:26:09 and chose to face the bugle after completing his Fun Run.
Dunkerbeck and Paris were also able to claim Fun Run finishes in under 40 hours, but not before the loop 4 start cutoff. This finish was especially notable for Paris who earned the honor of being only the third woman ever to complete a Fun Run. She joins the ranks of Bev Anderson-Abbs (2012 and 2013) and Sue Johnston (2001) Suzi Thibeault (1991,1994), P.J. Salmonson (1994), and Eliza McClean (2000). She is also the first woman to complete at least two loops since 2016.
Overnight, Hamilton and Sabbe were the only two left on the course. There were hopes of seeing a finish, but both runners found problems. Sabbe reportedly ran into navigation problems, leading to him getting lost and seeking help from a trash can he thought was a person, some passing motorists, and eventually the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office who gave him a lift back to camp, according to Barkley media sensation Keith Dunn.
A police car pulled up to Frozen Head at 5:00 this morning. The sheriff had been called for a “woman dressed as an Indian” who was scaring the village of Petros. It was Karel Sabbe, after getting lost during his 4th loop… and so the Barkley 2022 will not have a finisher. pic.twitter.com/7TP7bNO5aW
— Alexis Berg (@Bergalx) March 10, 2022
Hamilton, an orienteering expert was still out on the course when he timed out on loop 4 at the 48-hour mark, ending the Barkley early Thursday morning. The course had won again.
This story will be updated with quotes from runners as they come out of the woods.
This story has been updated to include all women’s Fun Run finishers.