Barkley Marathons

For the second year in a row, Gary Robbins goes home heartbroken from the Barkley Marathons course. The Canadian trail runner who was hoping to make history by becoming the first Canadian to finish the Barkley Marathons missed the cutoff time by six seconds.

He also made a navigational error and went wrong on the course at the fifth and final loop, coming in to the finish from a clockwise direction instead of counterclockwise. He finished having collected all the necessary pages from the course. 

Details of Gary Robbins’ race

Conditions in the Tennessee wilderness were extremely cruel today as Robbins dealt with a thick fog and snow in the final stages of the race. It was these unfavourable weather conditions that caused him to make the error. 

The scene from the finish line was silent when spectators realized that Robbins’ efforts had resulted in a DNF after 60 hours of racing and months of training. Robbins fell to the ground immediately after making it to the gate. While we captured footage of the scene, the dialogue can be difficult to make out. 

“I went on the wrong side of the mountain in the fog,” he said, noting that he got all the pages. “I went the wrong way.” 

When the fog finally cleared and Robbins could see what was going on, he had 3:57 to get in. 

“He has all the pages,” said Lazarus Lake. And after a long, reluctant pause, he said “I’ll have to see where he went.” 

“It’s okay if it doesn’t count, I understand. I went on the opposite trail in the fog,” said Robbins explaining that he could show where he went.

Robbins got all the necessary pages but went right on the last turn.

After his finish race director Lazarus Lake was able to confirm where he went. “You have to come in on the right trail anyway,” he noted. In other words, though Robbins missed the deadline by six seconds, he still would have been disqualified for coming in the wrong way.

The race director also confirmed that Robbins did in fact have all the pages collected. His race though, still counts as incomplete. 

“Still, it’s a story for the ages,” Lazarus Lake noted. He noted that Robbins just made one mistake at the very end. 

“Thank-you very much for another wonderful event,” Robbins said. 


The 2017 finisher


The race today which is arguably the toughest endurance event that exists did see a finisher– the 15th in its entire history. John Kelly finished in 59:30 despite having fallen asleep within the last hour and a half before the 1:42 p.m. cutoff. It was the biting cold weather that woke him up. He does not know how long he was asleep for.

Kelly finished in tears, looking like a broken man and wearing a plastic bag found on the course to help keep warm. 

Full coverage of 2017 Barkley Marathons:

2017 Barkley Marathons sees one finisher; Heartbreak for Gary Robbins

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

Archived content on Canadian Running‘s social media channels


2017 Barkley Marathons coverage brought to you by Salomon.

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  • Paul hopwood says:

    3sec faster per loop create a cushion😉.
    Amazing effort Gary!!!
    Nxt yr course record !

    • Jodi says:

      The course record will never be touched. He also didn’t follow the course. He knew his finish wouldn’t count even if he was under 60hrs. Imagine someone at the Boston Marathon finshing on an alternate, off-course route. They would also be DNF’d. Contrary to popular belief, there is a set ‘course’ to follow at Barkley too 🙂

  • Alison James says:

    Congratulations Gary! You are a champion! Your composure in the circumstance was remarkable. Well done!

  • rawl says:

    Im impressed with anyone who does ONE lap. This is grit at it’s finest! Congrats to John Kelly, and so broken over Gary’s DNF.

  • Chris Wille says:

    Congratulations Gary! As Lazarus said, your supreme effort was one for the ages. You did your very very best under some of the worst conditions ever experienced on that ultra demanding course. Be very proud of your efforts! You are a rockstar. Like rings on the water when one throws a rock in, your perserverence is legendary and you have touched many with your unflagging courage and tenacity. Canada is ever so proud of you!

  • Chris Hoag says:

    Gary, you are incredible. Your fortitude is an example to us all!

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