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Barkley Marathons update: John Kelly led the charge up Rat Jaw

Kelly, Calmettes and Coury stopped briefly for water at the fire tower

John Kelly

Many runners including two women (Nicky Spinks and Canadian Stephanie Case) have now (finally) summitted Rat Jaw, one of the most difficult climbs on the Barkley course. Several hours ago John Kelly was the first to arrive, followed by Guillaume Calmettes, Jamil Coury and Karel Sabbe. The rumour that someone may have been “tapped out” (taken off the course in a DNF, accompanied by Taps played on a bugle) turns out to be false, as far as we know, though this afternoon Laz did memorialize previous Barkleyites who have passed away.


After a long delay, three-time finisher Jared Campbell finally made it to the top of Rat Jaw.

Laz lit his cigarette at 9:23 a.m. today, one hour after blowing the conch, which is the way the race has been started for many years. Runners are battling the heat, with temperatures in excess of 20 C. The temperature is expected to drop dramatically overnight, with a forecasted high of only 9 C for Sunday.

After climbing Rat Jaw, refilling water bottles and tearing out their book page (to prove they ran the course correctly), runners descend the way they came. Tweeter Blue Mountain Road claims Johan Steene forgot his page and had to go back up Rat Jaw, which is thick with sharp briars, a second time.

Kellywho successfully finished the course in 2017, and Campbell are being touted as most likely to succeed this year (though Campbell seems already to have lost considerable time). Both are American. Kelly has impeccable local cred, having grown up in the area. Kelly’s grandfather was a guard at Brushy Mountain state prison, which housed inmate James Earl Ray, killer of Martin Luther King, Jr.


RELATED: Known starters for the 2019 Barkley Marathons

Keith Dunn, aka The Real Keith (the most reliable Barkley tweeter) posted that there are six women at Barkley this year, including Brit Nicky Spinks, Canadians Stephanie Case and Morgan Mckay, American Maggie Guterl, and Carol Morgan of Ireland. Many are hoping this might be the year a woman finishes (it would be the first time)–or at least completes a Fun Run, which is three loops within 40 hours. However after the first two women did not reach Rat Jaw until they’d been on the course for eight hours, it now appears unlikely.


The last woman to complete a Fun Run was Canadian Bev Anderson-Abbs (originally from Calgary, now based in California), in 2013. Last year Stephanie Case ran two loops, but not fast enough to be allowed to attempt a third.

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