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The 2019 Barkley Marathons seemed promising at first: a late start time, good weather, veteran runners back on the course. True to Barkley style, things went south quickly. As with 2018, there were no finishers in this year’s edition.
Barkley Marathons is a race that requires navigational skills because there are few actual “trails,” monster strength to climb 66,000 feet of vertical, endurance to cover 100 miles (some say it’s more like 120) and the mental game to be out in the foggy, merciless forest of Tennessee, looking for clues, for hours and hours at a time.
Laz changed the course this year. What is normally a scavenger hunt up and down dramatically steep and messy terrain became even more challenging.
John Kelly, the 15th and most recent finisher of Barkley, said, “Rather than having the big climbs spaced out with a “small” one in between, they came two or three at a time. The race started with three 1700+ foot climbs back-to-back-to-back. It didn’t allow any sort of physical or mental recovery by switching between uphill mode and downhill mode.”
Maggie Guterl, second-time Barkley attempter and the women’s second-place, 183-mile finisher of the 2018 Big’s Backyard Ultra (another Lazarus Lake race), said, “The first year Laz makes changes, there are usually no finishers and then the runners conspire and they find ways.”