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Barkley Marathons 2024: Verys and Kelly lead ‘Magnificent Seven’ as fifth and final loop starts

Jonathan Turner
News Director
Updated on

John Kelly and Ihor Verys lead the way after the fourth of a potential five 20-mile loops at the Barkley Marathons in Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee.

The duo have contrasting experience levels at ‘The Race That Eats Its Young’ – American star Kelly has twice finished the race, while Canadian-based Ukraine runner Verys is making his debut.

They returned to camp in 45 hours, 46 minutes and 32 seconds, which means they’ve now got just over 14 hours to run the fifth loop in order to get back before the 60-hour cut-off.

The four-loop time is a few minutes quicker than Kelly achieved last year before he went on to finish the race for a second time. He is one of only 17 people, all men, to complete all five loops in the allotted time.

But there’s a strong chance that number will increase in what has already been a record-breaking year. In addition to the leading duo, another five runners completed their fourth loop in time, including Britain’s Jasmin Paris, who is bidding to become the first female finisher.

Changing directions

The next big question was who out of Kelly and Verys would leave camp quickest and thereby have the honour of choosing which direction to run the final loop.

And the answer was Verys who chose ‘clockwise’ as he set out at 46:06:32 into the race. That means Kelly will go anti-clockwise and the other runners who start the fifth loop will alternate.

John Kelly day 2 Barkley Marathons 2023 photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram
John Kelly – heading counter-clockwise on loop five [Photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram]

The reason for that is so that each contender is more likely to have to run alone and trust their own navigational skills as they look to collect the book pages in what’s another quirk of this unique race.

Hamilton and Hall come next

Next back were another pair of runners – New Zealand’s Greig Hamilton and Britain’s Damian Hall, in 46:15:43 and 46:16:27 respectively.

That’s more than an hour quicker than Hall clocked last year at the same stage when he was one of four – Kelly, Aurélien Sanchez and Karel Sabbe were the others – to start a fifth loop. Unfortunately for Hall he was the only one not to finish as he became disorientated early on due to sleep deprivation and the extreme physical and mental challenge.

That underlines just how tough the event is – and that absolutely nothing can be taken for granted.

Hall was out quickest of the pair so headed clockwise, with Hamilton in the other direction.

Up to fifth now, having overtaken Paris, is American Jared Campbell who is looking to become the first person ever to finish the race four times. He completed loop four in 46:19:25.

But to the delight of a global audience cheering her on with the Barkley-inspired #smalleuropeanwoman hashtag, Paris wasn’t far behind in 46:29:12, which meant she’d maintained a gap of around 45 minutes to the leaders and gives her a fantastic chance of making history later today.

And again it was the Brit who was quickest at the ‘interloopal’ changeover, meaning she follows Hall in a clockwise direction while Campbell goes the other way.

For the first time ever there are seven runners starting the final loop, with France’s Sébastien Raichon making it in the nick of time, starting it just three minutes before the 48-hour cut-off.

Keith Dunn, the invaluable provider of all the official information on the race via X, explained: “Sebastien Raichon appeared to have finished loop four, but failed to follow the course near the end of the loop. After correcting his error he finished the loop in 47:45:39.”

It should be an absolutely fascinating conclusion and you can follow it step by step on our live updates page.

Jasmin Paris climbing Barkley Marathons loop three 2023 photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram
Jasmin Paris – is today the day? [Photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram]

Meanwhile there were three other runners who started loop four but didn’t make it back in time. France’s Maxime Gauduin exited relatively early on while Japan’s Tomo Ihara was next to go. Keith Dunn, the race’s official information provider, reported that he “dropped on loop four, taking quitter’s road back to camp”.

And Spain’s Albert Herrero Casas suffered a similar fate.

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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