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Barkley Marathons ends with no finishers (again)

Sabbe and Hamilton both dropped out on their fourth loop; John Kelly, Jasmin Paris and Thomas Dunkerbeck get Fun Runs

Barkley Marathons Photo by: Howie Stern

The 2022 Barkley Marathons has come to an end after the last two competitors, Karel Sabbe and Greig Hamilton, bowed out on their fourth loop of the 20-plus mile course.

Karel Sabbe and race director Laz Lake. Photo: Instagram/karelsabbe

Sabbe was making good time, finishing three loops in just over 32 hours. The fourth loop in the dark did him no favours, as he was found off-course in another town, chatting with a garbage can who he thought was a person (he’d been running for 40-plus hours at this point). The local sheriff pulled Sabbe aside, escorting him back to camp, where his 2022 Barkleys attempt sadly came to an end.

Hamilton, an orienteering expert, ran the early two loops with Big’s Backyard Ultra stars Courtney Dauwalter and Harvey Lewis, before going ahead of them at the end of the second loop (where Dauwalter and Lewis dropped after failing to find the seventh book). Hamilton was moving well, but he had time to make up, arriving in camp after loop three almost three hours behind Sabbe. Ultimately, it wasn’t in the cards for Hamilton, who did not complete loop four in under 48 hours (the rule for being allowed to attempt loop five).

Race director Laz Lake eyeing a map at the camp on night one of the 2022 Barkley Marathons. Photo: Barkley Marathons/Twitter

The Barkley course has won again, for the fifth consecutive year.

2017 marked the last time anyone finished; that was the year John Kelly completed all five loops (and Canada’s Gary Robbins came close). One hundred and sixty-five runners have started the race since 2017, and Sabbe and Hamilton are the only runners to reach loop four on two occasions. Kelly tapped out this year after three loops to finish the Fun Run.

John Kelly sitting on a bench atop of Rat Jaw at the 2022 Barkley Marathons

Jasmin Paris scored a Fun Run, which is three loops of the course in under 40 hours. She is the first woman to do so since Bev Anderson-Abbs (who is Canadian), back in 2013. Paris, Kelly and Thomas Dunkerbeck are all credited with Fun Runs. (Runners who start a fourth loop are disqualified from claiming a Fun Run.)

There are approximately 40 starters every year. They have 60 hours to finish five 20-mile loops through steep and unforgiving terrain in Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park while using their orienteering skills to navigate the course, which is not marked. GPS watches are not allowed; each runner is issued a Casio watch with very little functionality beyond keeping them apprised of how much time has passed. Runners must also collect specific pages (corresponding to their bib number) from books hidden on the course; missing pages mean automatic disqualification. (Runners receive a new bib at the beginning of each loop).