March 10, 2022

2022 Barkley Marathons: No finishers, but Jasmin Paris achieves ‘Fun Run’

Greig Hamilton the final runner to succumb midway through his fourth lap as legendary event again comes out on top
By Stuart Dick
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There were no finishers in this year’s Barkley Marathons in Tennessee, the notorious race devised by Gary ‘Lazarus Lake’ Cantrell.

Just 15 different runners – all men – have completed the five 20-mile loops in the allotted time since the event’s inception in 1986.

Only two, Greig Hamilton and Karel Sabbe, began the fourth lap this time but Sabbe’s adventure came to an end after he was found lost and hallucinating – and “seeking help from a trash can he thought was a person” according to unofficial race updater Keith Dunn.

And it was Dunn who broke the news almost exactly 48 hours after the race’s start that Hamilton’s race was also run.

Paris produces epic performance

Earlier British hopeful and Spine Race record holder Jasmin Paris became the first woman since Bev Abbs (in 2012 and 2013) to earn what is termed ‘Fun Run’ status.

Jasmin Paris inov-8 ambassador
Jasmin Paris (Photo copyright: inov-8)

That honour goes to anyone who dips under the 40-hour limit for the first three laps, which Paris did with just over 10 minutes to spare, as did Thomas Dunkerbeck.

But Paris wasn’t able to create history by becoming the first woman to finish the race given there was a 36-hour cut-off point to start lap four.

American John Kelly, the last (in 2017) of those 15 people to make it to the end, did get under that time but “tapped” himself out after the third loop, leaving Hamilton and Sabbe to press on.

He explained later that three hours spent looking for his waist belt, which contained the book pages the runners have to collect, essentially cost him his chance.

As it unfolded

The 2022 event got underway at 07:54 local time on Tuesday March 8 – an hour after the traditional blowing of the Conch – as 40 runners tackled the 100-mile challenge.

One runner faced an uphill battle from the start. David Hughes, who failed in his Barkley Marathons attempt on the first lap a year ago, missed the start of the race, not getting underway until 08:34.

Relatively kind weather conditions meant a record 30 completed the first clockwise loop of the course.

Weather starts to bite on second loop

But the second anti-clockwise loop brought a series of drop outs as night fell and the weather took a turn for the worse.

Freezing rain, high winds and fog on the upper part of the course all started to change the complexion of the race.

Perhaps most unfortunate of all was Guillaume Calmettes, whose attempt ended on lap two because a gust of wind blew away one of the book pages required to complete the loop.

Only five runners made it through the third loop in the allotted 40 hours to earn their “Fun Run” badge, but just three of those were within the 36-hour mark to start lap four.

The field was then reduced to two, after Kelly made the call to “tap” himself out and it wasn’t much later that the Barkley Marathons itself again emerged the ‘winner’.

What is the Barkley Marathons?

The Barkley Marathons is regarded as one of the toughest races in the world and since 1986 only 15 different runners have managed to complete the full course.

That is five 20-mile loops with more than 54,000 feet of ascent, each loop starting and finishing at the yellow gate where competitors and support teams make camp. 

It achieved legendary status following the 2014 Netflix documentary Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young.

The test is made even more difficult by the fact that each competitor has to find books hidden around the course and tear out the page corresponding to their race number.

The current record time is 52:03:08 which was set by Brett Maune in 2012. More details on the event can be found in our race explainer.

The 2022 Barkley Marathons on RUN247: