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Ihor Verys becomes first Canadian to finish Barkley Marathons

The Ukrainian-Canadian from Chilliwack, B.C., makes history at the Barkley Marathons, finishing five loops in 58:44:59

Ihor Verys Photo by: Brice Ferre

For the first time in 38 years, a Canadian has finished the Barkley Marathons. Ihor Verys of Chilliwack, B.C., finished his final loop on Friday afternoon at Frozen Head State Park in Wartburg, Tenn. He completed five loops of the 20+ mile course in 58:44:59 and is the first runner to finish. 

What Verys has accomplished is nothing short of remarkable. The Barkley Marathons course is incredibly long and gruelling, with thousands of metres of elevation gain, equivalent to up and down Everest twice, and then some.

This was Verys’s first time at the Barkley Marathons in only his fourth year of competing professionally. Last year, he was runner-up at Big’s Backyard Ultra World Championships, which was won by American Harvey Lewis, who ran a mind-boggling 724 km over five days; Verys set a Canadian record of 107 “yards,” smashing his previous personal best by 267 km. Verys also has wins at B.C.’s Fat Dog 120 and the Canadian Death Race.

Lewis, who was also part of this year’s Barkley but dropped out of the race after the first loop, was out on the course to cheer on Verys as he took on his final loop. Verys reportedly smiled and said to Lewis “It’s only 60 hours, not 107,” referencing the elapsed time limit of the Barkley Marathons, compared to how long he was on the course at Big’s Backyard, which is a last-runner-standing event. 

Verys, 29, was one of seven runners to take on loop five–a new record at the Barkley. Per Barkley rules, runners who head out on loop five simultaneously may not travel together; they must go in opposite directions. Verys, being the first runner to head out, decided to go clockwise (the preferred direction); John Kelly, the second runner, therefore had to go counterclockwise. Six runners remain on the course at the time of publication.

The race will be over and any finishers determined by 5:17 p.m. ET Friday.

What is the Barkley Marathons?

The Barkley Marathons is five loops of a 20+ mile course (distances vary; the race is thought to be about 120 miles, or 192 km) featuring thousands of metres of elevation gain, with a time limit of 60 hours. GPS watches are not allowed; each runner is issued a cheap watch set to “Barkley time,” i.e., the 60-hour limit. Runners must collect pages corresponding to their bib number from 13 books hidden on the course (they receive a new bib for each loop); missing pages mean disqualification. There is water available on the course, but no aid stations. Runners may only receive aid from their crew between loops, in camp, where they are on the clock.

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