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Barkley Marathons 2024: Relive an epic and record-breaking race

All you need to know about this unique event, which is famously billed as 'The Race That Eats Its Young'...
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Race Guide

It’s the world’s most notorious ultramarathon – and shrouded in secrecy for good reason due to the delicate ecological nature of Frozen Head State Park in rural East Tennessee. Spectators are not encouraged.

But this year’s event got under way at 05:17 local time (09:17 UK, 10:17 CET) on Wednesday 20 March, with the race’s official information provider Keith Dunn posting: “After a brief memorial, the cigarette was lit at 5:17. The 2024 Barkley Marathons has begun.”

There had been a “false alarm” at 03:16 when a car alarm was mistaken for the conch (only at the Barkley!).

But then at 04:17 the blowing of the conch by race creator Lazarus Lake signalled an hour to go and a scramble for the 40 invited runners to get ready – and choose a basic watch to keep track of time elapsed once the ceremonial cigarette is lit.

GPS is not allowed – it’s map and compass and a desperate search for pages of a book on each 20-mile loop which each have to be completed within 12 hours. Click here for more details on the nuances of the event but the ultimate aim is five loops within 60 hours to join the list of finishers.

Regarded as one of the toughest races in the world, until now only 17 different people have managed to complete the full course – three of them last year. Does that mean it will be even more challenging 12 months on?

Barkley Marathons live updates

There is no website or social media page, let alone live streaming, and no GPS devices are allowed so it’s a very different version of ‘live tracking’ for this one.

The one semi-official way to follow what is happening is via @keithdunn on his Twitter / X feed which we’ve embedded below (just click the ‘X FEED’ button to view).

And we’ve collated all the information to keep you in the ‘loop’ throughout.

Loop 1 | Loop 2 | Loop 3 | Loop 4 | Loop 5

Here’s how it all unfolded…

NOTE - the X (Twitter) timeline functionality doesn't appear to be working on mobile but is ok on desktop / laptop devices. This appears to be an issue with X itself

22 March 2024 9:20 pm
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Jasmin does it!
Britain's Jasmin Paris makes ultrarunning history when she becomes the first woman to finish the infamous Barkley Marathons - with 99 seconds to spare!
22 March 2024 8:15 pm
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Historic win for Ihor Verys
One of ultrarunning's new stars, who moved to Canada from Ukraine, produced a masterclass display to be the first home on his very first appearance at the Barkley Marathons. Four others would follow him home.
22 March 2024 7:50 am
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'Magnificent Seven' on final loop
The records continue to rack up. Ihor Verys and John Kelly led the way at the end of loop four. Closely followed by Damian Hall and Greig Hamilton. Then came Jared Campbell and Jasmin Paris, with Sébastien Raichon joining them just in time.
22 March 2024 6:00 am
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Record-breakers!
This year will go down in Barkley Marathons history as records are shattered left, right and centre. With hopefully more to come...
22 March 2024 2:00 am
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#smalleuropeanwoman trending
Our call for support for Jasmin Paris' bid for Barkley Marathons history receives a brilliant response as it quickly starts trending in the UK and beyond, with the added bonus of a repost from none other than Keith Dunn!
21 March 2024 5:30 pm
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Verys leads way - and three-peat for Paris
Ihor Verys had a narrow lead over John Kelly and Damian Hall at the end of the third loop. And Jasmin Paris made Barkley history - and is now looking for more.
21 March 2024 8:00 am
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Last year's winner is OUT
Aurélien Sanchez, finisher #16 at the Barkley Marathons, is tapped out early on the third loop and says: “I don’t know how I did that last year.”
21 March 2024 5:45 am
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Famous five lead after loop two
There's a sense of deja vu as two-time finisher John Kelly leads the way again alongside friend and rival Damian Hall - with Jasmin Paris right in the mix too as she looks to make history.
20 March 2024 8:00 pm
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Big names to fore after first loop
John Kelly, Jasmin Paris, Damian Hall and Jared Campbell all look to have started well as we try to decipher Keith Dunn's descriptions!
20 March 2024 5:15 pm
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Third time a charm?
It's now been confirmed that British star Jasmin Paris, who has gone closer than any woman to finishing the Barkley in recent years, is back for a third attempt.
20 March 2024 4:30 pm
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DISQUALIFICATIONS beckon!
Huge news incoming from Keith Dunn as he reveals that two runners - if they can be identified - will be disqualified for littering at the start.
20 March 2024 11:45 am
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Sanchez and Kelly return
A significant update to our 'who's taking part' list as two finishers from last year are back for more at Frozen Head State Park.
20 March 2024 9:17 am
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Race starts in traditional way
"After a brief memorial, the cigarette was lit at 5:17 local time. The 2024 Barkley Marathons has begun," posted Keith Dunn to signal the start of this year's race. Let the 'fun' begin!
20 March 2024 7:30 am
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'False' start drama!
“The conch was blown at 3:16. The 2024 Barkley Marathons begins in one hour," posted Keith Dunn - swiftly followed by: "False alarm, folks. It was someone’s car alarm." Only at the Barkley!
20 March 2024 7:00 am
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Who is running this year?
It's never easy to work out everyone who is taking part in the Barkley - but here's what we know so far...

The Barkley Marathons

start list

As Keith Dunn said himself just a couple of days before this year’s race: “Just as a reminder, we never post a list of starters.”

It’s only as the race develops that pieces of the jigsaw start to emerge.

There were some automatic qualifiers – Big’s Backyard ultra winner Harvey Lewis, who has been here before, plus the first male and female at the Barkley Fall Classic which were French orienteerer and trail runner Maxime Gauduin and American ultrarunning and Toughest Mudder / Hyrox star Kris Rugloski. They all had places if they wanted them. Lewis and Gauduin took their spots, but not Rugloski because of an untimely injury.

And other runners, invited by Laz, have now emerged including last year’s winner Aurélien Sanchez, two-time finisher John Kelly, as well as British pair Damian Hall and Jasmin Paris, who has gone closer than any woman to finishing the race in recent years. Could this be the year?

Click here for more details.

Notable runners

Route

The Barkley Marathons is made up of five 20-mile loops with more than 54,000 feet of ascent (that’s nearly twice up Mount Everest).

Each loop starts and finishes at the fabled yellow gate where competitors and support teams make camp and the runners have 12 hours to complete each loop.

The first loop is clockwise and then it alternates until the fifth and final lap. At that point the first-placed runner chooses which direction to go, with any other runners alternating so they are more likely to have to run separately.

In reality – though we don’t know for sure as there’s no GPS allowed – the loops are more likely closer to 26-miles long, meaning that anybody who completes all five will have covered around 130 miles. Any runners who manage to complete ‘just’ three loops inside 40 hours are awarded ‘fun run’ finisher status.

The route changes every year and it is near impossible to review. Roughly 80% of the race is off-trail and there are no aid stations – just two water points.

And the difficulty of each loop can’t be understated, with incredible climbing and navigational challenges and all through thick and sharp briars.

Each competitor has to find books hidden around the course and tear out the page corresponding to their race number. Failure to present a page from every book at the end of each loop results in disqualification. The book titles have become part of Barkley folklore and previously included Death Walks in the Woods, The Valley of Death, Almost Home, The Body in the Woods, Fool, The End, A Week in the Woods, and The Idiot.

One bit of good news for the runners is that the weather forecast this year – at least for the first 48 hours – looks pleasantly dry and sunny.

Barkley Marathon finishers

The full five-loop race has only been completed 21 times by 17 different runners. The current race record is 52:03:08 and was set by Brett Maune in 2012.

1995: Mark Williams

2001: David Horton; Blake Wood

2003: Ted “Cave Dog” Keizer

2004: Mike Tilden; Jim Nelson

2008: Brian Robinson

2009: Andrew Thompson

2010: Jonathan Basham

2011: Brett Maune

2012: Brett Maune; Jared Campbell; John Fegyveresi

2013: Nick Hollon; Travis Wildeboer

2014: Jared Campbell

2016: Jared Campbell

2017: John Kelly

2023: Aurelien Sanchez; John Kelly; Karel Sabbe

Past winners

2012
Claire Bannwarth
152:23:00

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Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  
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