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Barkley Marathons: Why David Goggins pulled out of brutal race in 2017


David Goggins is renowned for his commitment to ultra-running but one race that he is yet to take on is the infamous Barkey Marathons.

The fabled annual event has been completed by just 15 people since 1986 and is arguably the toughest race in the world.

It takes place in rural East Tennessee and has a start date known only to those invited to race, with competitors tasked with completing five 20-mile loops with more than 54,000 feet of ascent.

Goggins prides himself on pushing the limit of what is physically possible and has finished Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc and picked up podiums at Moab 240 and Badwater Ultramarathon.

2017 pull-out

The former Navy Seal has admitted he was once in line to participate in the race.

Speaking on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast in 2018, Goggins revealed that he had been in touch with Gary ‘Lazarus Lake’ Cantrell, the eccentric character who created the outrageous test that is the Barkley Marathons.

Barkley Marathons creator Lazarus Lake
Barkley Marathons creator and race director Lazarus Lake

“He (Lake) invited me out there for this race,” Goggins revealed. “I actually got into the Barkley last year (2017) but couldn’t do it because of the book.

“So, I’m supposed to do it this year but will see again how the schedule goes.”

But that never came to fruition – Goggins is famed for his motivational speaking and has published two books, with his work calendar ultimately complicating his Barkley Marathons hopes, as it has done for his 2023 4x4x48 Challenge.

Strolling Jim experience

Despite not yet taking on the Barkley Marathons, Goggins is acquainted with events thought up by the outlandish Lake, who he fondly describes as “sick”.

“That’s a sick, sick man. I’ve done a couple of his races.”

“He has one called Strolling Jim; I actually won that one in 2016,” he added.

“It’s probably his easiest race. It’s through the back country of Tennessee, it’s a 41-mile race on the road, one of the first ultramarathons out there, ever.”

It remains to be seen whether Goggins, 48, will ever fulfil his ambition of taking on the Barkley Marathons, but even if he does find the time – and willpower – he will of course need an infamous ‘letter of condolence’ to be among the 40 entrants.

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