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Race director clarifies final outcome of 2017 Barkley Marathons

Gary Cantrell, the race director for the Barkley Marathons, clarified his position on Gary Robbins' finish and why his run did not count.

Barkley Marathons
Race director Gary “Laz” Cantrell waits for runners.

Barkley Marathons race director, Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell, clarified what went on at the finish of the more than 100-mile (160K) ultramarathon in Tennessee after it concluded on Sunday. Cantrell details the race’s position on Canadian Gary Robbins’ arrival at the yellow gate at camp (which marks the finish) from the wrong direction and six seconds past the 60-hour cutoff.

Ahead of Robbins was Kelly, who became the 15th finisher of the iconic race since it first ran in 1986. Kelly, for the fifth and final loop, went clockwise and Robbins went counterclockwise. It became apparent that Robbins made a wrong turn though after collecting the final page of the course’s 13 books (which act as checkpoints) as he came into camp from the same direction as Kelly. “He failed to complete the course by two miles; the time, in that situation, is meaningless,” Cantrell said of the six-second time overage.



“I wish I had never said six seconds…


Gary had just come in after having run off course and missing the last two miles of the Barkley. That is, of course, not a finish. I do, however, always record when runners come in, whether they are finishing a loop, or not.

So, I had looked at the watch, even though there was no possibility that he would be counted as a finisher.

So, when someone asked if he had gotten in before the limit; I foolishly answered.

I never expected the story to somehow become that he had missed the time limit by six seconds. He failed to complete the course by two miles. The time, in that situation, is meaningless.

I hate it, because this tale perpetuates the myth that the Barkley does not have a course. The Barkley is a footrace. It is not an orienteering contest, nor a scavenger hunt. The books are nothing more than unmanned checkpoints.

The Boston Marathon has checkpoints and you have to show up at all of them or you can be disqualified…

That does not mean you are allowed to follow any route you choose between checkpoints. Now, the class with which Gary handled this terrible disappointment at the end of a truly magnificent performance…that was exceptional, and is, in and of itself, a remarkable achievement.

But he did not miss the time limit by six seconds. He failed to complete the Barkley by two miles.


Robbins posted a brief recap of the race on Monday where he said the following: “The Barkley Marathons is not an orienteering style race. You do not get to select the route that best favors you between books. You need to navigate between books, off trail, but in a very specific direction of travel. My finish, even if it were 6 seconds faster would not have counted. I put Laz and the race in a precarious situation and in hindsight I’m glad I was six seconds over so that we didn’t have to discuss the validity of my finish.”

Editor’s note: Cantrell’s statement has been edited for style. An unedited version can be found in the embedded post above.

Prior 2017 coverage of the Barkley Marathons

Pre-race interview with Robbins
Pre-race photos
Photos from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary
Barkley Marathons historical timeline
Here’s how Gary Robbins fuelled between laps at the Barkley Marathons
Mike Wardian fails to complete a loop of the Barkley Marathons under time limit
Must-see on-course photos from loop four of the Barkley Marathons
VIDEO: In camp with Gary Robbins between loops at the Barkley Marathons
2017 Barkley Marathons sees one finisher; Heartbreak for Gary Robbins

Archived content on Canadian Running‘s social media channels


2017 Barkley Marathons coverage brought to you by Salomon.