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Barkley Marathons: Five lead the way after second loop including Kelly and British duo

Jonathan Turner
News Director
Updated on

A select group of five runners finished loop two of the 2024 Barkley Marathons well inside 20 hours – though the field was now down to 50% of the starters by this point.

The group comprised two-time finisher John Kelly of America, Brits Jasmin Paris and Damian Hall, France’s Sébastien Raichon and Ihor Verys (Ukraine / Canada).

Keith Dunn, the only official provider of information on the infamous race, posted on X that it was “a mass loop two finish” at Frozen Head State Park as they came in “19:27:49, 51, 52, 53, 54.”

So far so good for famous five

They’d all been in the leading six after the first lap, which they’d completed in around eight and a half hours.

And to put the cumulative time into context, after the second loop last year – when three runners would go onto finish the event by completing five laps – Kelly also led the way but in 20:07:02.

He and Hall, who are great friends and rivals who have swapped FKTs (fastest known times) on the UK’s 268-mile Pennine Way, ran together 12 months ago, just as they are now.

John Kelly Damian Hall Barkley Marathons 2023 loop three with Laz photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram
Kelly (left) and Hall are both going well again [Photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram]

Kelly would go on to finish for the second time along with winner Aurélien Sanchez and Karel Sabbe, while Hall made the start of the fifth loop before navigational issues ended what had been a fantastic debut at the race.

Hall’s fellow Brit Jasmin Paris has gone closer than anyone to becoming the first woman to finish the race after a debut three-loop ‘Fun Run’ in 2022 followed last year by becoming the first female to start loop four in more than 20 years.

She was an hour back at this point last year and also in the group of five is debutant Raichon, the record-breaking winner of the Tors des Glaciers.

The Frenchman had said ahead of the race this week: “I like orienteering and 60 hours isn’t very long after all, but you have to remain humble with the Barkley, because a lot will depend on the weather!”

Luckily for him and the others, the weather is largely set fair – it’s been dry, clear and relatively warm so far and likely to stay that way through Thursday.

The fifth member of the group is another first-timer in Ihor Verys, who really made his mark at the Big’s Backyard Ultra last year with an “assist” to winner Harvey Lewis.

That meant Verys was the second-last person standing in what proved to be a world-record breaking event as he completed 107 loops to Lewis’ 108 as he clocked 450 miles!

Three more go under 20 hours

Finishing on your first attempt at the Barkley is a rarity – in fact it’s a rarity full stop given that only 17 have completed five loops in the history of the race – but Sanchez managed the feat last year.

The first five were followed by a group of three as Greig Hamilton (New Zealand), Jared Campbell (USA and the only person to finish the Barkley three times), and Maxime Gauduin (France, first-timer who qualified by winning the Barkley Fall Classic) who finished loop two in 19:52:36, 47 and 48 respectively.

And the top 10 was rounded out by Albert Herrero Casas of Spain, who notched a debut ‘Fun Run in 2023, and Sanchez in 20:26:04 and 20:26:20 respectively, though last year’s winner would drop out early on loop three.

Next came Tomo Ihara of Japan (22:08:53) and Dutchman Thomas Dunkerbeck (22:08:57), with France’s Guillaume Calmettes (26:25:29) seemingly the only other runner still going, though his best hope now is a ‘Fun Run’. It’s now emerged that he was the runner who had to go back to collect a missing page after the first loop, costing him an extra three hours. Kudos to him for still being in contention for the third loop.

But while things are looking good at the front of the race – and the excellent X number-crunch below illustrates that – it’s a different story further back.

For just 22 of the 40 runners made it to the start of loop two compared to 30 in 2023 – and two of those exited the race early on the second lap, leaving 50% of the field to battle on.

More soon made their exit, including a group of four that featured the Big’s Backyard Ultra winner (and world record holder) Harvey Lewis who didn’t make it past lap two for the third time in row.

And a big chunk of loop three will be in the dark, with Keith Dunn posting on X that four of the first five – Raichon being the exception as he stayed in camp longer – were back out for that before the second group arrived.

You can keep right up to date with how the rest of the race plays out with our live updates page.

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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