Barkley Marathons
Photo: Michael Doyle.

UPDATE: Start is March 24 at 9:33 a.m. Follow @CanadianRunning on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as we’re on scene.

The highly-anticipated Barkley Marathons, a certainly-more-than 100-mile trail race in the Wartburg, Tenn. area, is approaching.

Historically, the notoriously difficult race – only 15 people have finished the Barkley in more than 30 years – has been held on what is referred to as Fools Weekend, or April Fools. That would lead one to think that the Barkley starts on March 30-31. According to Matt Mahoney’s Barkley data, the race has not been held prior to March 27 since at least 2003.

This year, however, may be different. And it may or may not have to do with the heightened interest (due to two documentaries being released in recent years about the BM100) in the race and the fact that spectators are highly discouraged from travelling to the park to watch the Barkley.

On Thursday, Canadian ultrarunner Gary Robbins shared what appears to be photos from Frozen Head State Park, Tenn., the site of the Barkley Marathons. Complete with snow, too. The 2018 Barkley will be the North Vancouver, B.C.’s resident third attempt at finishing the ultramarathon.


A post shared by Gary Robbins (@garyrobbins) on

Meanwhile, filmmaker Billy Yang shared a podcast episode to his Twitter account adding in the tweet that he was excited to have Barkley Marathons entrant Guillaume Calmettes on the podcast “ahead of the Barkley Marathons this weekend.”

Another ultrarunner who may or may not be racing – no official entry list is provided – shared a photo from Frozen Head State Park on Thursday. The yellow gate in the park, which denotes the start and finish line of the race, is seen in the photo.

#itsfine #ithinkivemadeahugemistake #trailrunning #yellowgate

A post shared by John Burton (@bigjohnnyburton) on

The Barkley Marathons must be completed within 60 hours. The event, limited to 35-40 runners who enter through a mysterious registration method, involves completing five laps of a 20-mile (though likely longer) loop. Typically, rules vary slightly year-by-year though the basics of the race – no GPS watches, collecting pages of books to prove you followed the route and navigating with a map – remain largely unchanged.

The fact that John Kelly finished the Barkley Marathons in 2017 may lead Gary ‘Lazarus Lake’ Cantrell to make the rules slightly more difficult in 2018. Laz Lake is the race director.

If the start of the race is March 24, runners will hear the blowing of a conch, which signals one hour to start time, sometime between 11 p.m. on March 23 and 11 a.m. on March 24. Once 60 minutes expires, Laz Lake lights a cigarette to send participants off.

Of course, the race may well be the weekend of April Fools.

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  • Ryan R Maher says:

    This is from a local in St. Louis who is running it. “I will be Frozen Head bound this weekend and hopefully I do not repeat James Earl Ray’s mistakes while running through the Tennessee Mountains. Therefore, I will miss seeing everyone at the theater but Jerod Thornton and Ben Day will be overseeing the screening and representing Terrain Trail Runners”

  • SteelTownRunner says:

    “due to two documentaries being released in recent years about the BM100”

    Due to *at least four* documentaries (Netflix, Ginger Runner, and the one below, made the same year as the NF film, as well as a French film) being released in recent years about the BM100, and rampant vlogging.

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