North Vancouver’s Gary Robbins was on the brink of making Barkley Marathons history on Monday evening before dropping out on the fifth and final lap of the event in Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee. No Canadian has ever finished the event and Robbins made it farther than any other countryman in history.

Robbins experienced hallucinations and sleep deprivation during the final 20 miles (32K) of the ultramarathon. The 100-mile Barkley Marathons consists of five loops of 20 miles, which must be completed in 60 hours or less.

Runners are equipped with a map and compass, with no on-course assistance, making it one of the toughest races in the world. To ensure runners stay on the pre-determined route, each competitor must tear pages out of books scattered throughout the course and bring them back to base camp after each loop.

There is even a documentary about the event, which can be seen on Netflix in Canada.

For the first four laps of the race, Robbins ran with Jared Campbell, who would go on to become the first three-time finisher of the event. Running in a pack aids in navigation especially in the case of Robbins, who was running the race for the first time.

Runners split ways on the final lap, however, and must run in opposite directions.

Campbell, an engineer by day, can be seen finishing the 100-mile race at approximately 11 p.m. EDT below:

Campbell finished with less than an hour remaining on the clock as runners attempted to run 100 miles (160K) in 60 hours or less. The race has a near 100 per cent dropout rate with multiple finishers a rarity at the event. In 2015, for example, no one finished the race.

Campbell was the only entrant to complete this year’s course, which changes on an annual basis.

According to Ethan Newberry, Robbins made a costly navigational error during the fifth loop of the race, which is recapped in the below Instagram post.

Over the last 60 hours, I got to witness insane feats of strength, determination, teamwork and suffering. I have never been more inspired, touched & terrified. Some images and stories will live with me for a very long time, but I can’t imagine the memories that those who took on The Barkley firsthand will take with them. Here, surrounded by an overwhelming frenzy of cameras, family and Barkley veterans, my dear friend, @garyrobbins, looks to the sole 2016 Barkley finisher, winner and first ever 3x finisher, Jared Campbell. After running the first 4 loops together, the two were forced to split & travel in opposite directions for the final loop per tradition (followed by the incredible John Kelly one hour later). Succumbing to nearly 100 hour sleep deprivation, a costly navigational error caused Gary to lose the crucial time needed to complete the fifth and final loop. Jared went on to finish with minutes to spare. An absolutely astounding show of physical endurance. Thank you, Barkley, for opening my eyes to what true suffering and strength can look like. Next time I fee like shit in an ultra, I’ll know it is NOTHING compared to what those who take this on go through. I am not even remotely worthy. Now I must sleep in this Walmart’s parking lot before our 6am flight. #bm100

A photo posted by Ethan Newberry (@ethannewberry) on

He also experienced hallucinations upon arriving at a notable landmark on the course, according to a photographer at the event. David Cobb tweeted the following on Twitter:

Canadian Rhonda-Marie Avery, an athlete with eight per cent vision, raced the Barkley Marathons and made history becoming the first-ever blind athlete to attempt the run. She completed much of the first loop but tapped out. Three laps (60 miles, 97K) is called a “fun run.”

See how Robbins prepared for the gruelling, 100-mile event.

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1 Comment

  • Roy Kok says:

    Congrats to Gary. Awesome accomplishment. However, this is not a 100-mile race. Each lap is probably closer to a full marathon. And, in five loops the elevation is Everest twice. Among razor sharp flora. No GPS allowed. Etc. No offence but you should have more knowledgeable writers writing about extreme events like this. This article makes it sound like just another ultra.

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