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Harvey Lewis training ‘harder and smarter’ for this year’s Barkley Marathons

Jonathan Turner
News Director
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Harvey Lewis, a two-time Barkley Marathons runner, is doing everything he can to register a cherished finish for the first time.

So much about the Barkley is shrouded in secrecy – especially the start date and for good reason – but the popular Lewis is one runner who we know for sure will be taking part in this year’s renewal.

That’s because he again was the last person standing – and therefore winner – at the Big’s Backyard Ultra, one of the few ways to automatically qualify for the Barkley Marathons.

How he won the Big’s Backyard

He’d targeted that as his way in, saying on Instagram: “In my mind, my only shot to get back into Barkley in 2024 was winning Bigs. The stubborn side of me doesn’t want to quit especially when it’s very difficult and probability of success seems unrealistic.”

To achieve the victory he had run 450 miles across four-and-a-half days while climbing close to the equivalent of Mount Everest.

Harvey Lewis in action at the 2023 Badwater 135
Harvey Lewis in action at the 2023 Badwater 135 [Photo credit: Robert Lee / ©AdventureCORPS® / Badwater.com]

That event sees a gnarly 6.7km loop run every single hour until there’s just one person left and last October it boiled down to a duel between Lewis and Ukrainian-Canadian runner Ihor Verys.

Harvey Lewis at the Barkley Marathons

And since then Lewis – a 47-year-old teacher from Cincinnati – has been doing everything he can to give himself the best possible chance at the Barkley.

On his debut in 2022 Lewis completed the first 20-mile loop in a rapid 8:37 but exited on the second lap and it was a similar story last year..

Anyone who follows his social channels will have seen repeated hill efforts up brutal, snowy trails and and his latest visit to Frozen Head State Park, where the Barkley takes place, came just last weekend.

Looking down at the fabled Rat Jaw climb, Lewis posted: “17 hours between Saturday and Sunday running 58 miles and close to 20,000 feet, around the trails of Frozen Head State Park.

“Training harder and smarter than my two previous Barkley’s but it never seems enough. We give our best! I have great admiration and respect for the 17 finishers as well as for every Barker who has given it a go across the years. May the saga continue…

“Lots of time to reflect. Ready to get back to teaching tomorrow with some added inspiration.”

The start date is kept a secret so as to deter spectators given the fragile ecological status of the park but it usually begins at some point in March.

Race creator Laz Lake will blow a conch to signal one hour to the start and it officially gets under way when he lights a cigarette.

Lazarus Lake start Barkley Marathons 2023 photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram
Laz starts last year’s race [Photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram]
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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