Three-time Barkley Marathons finisher Jared Campbell was the first to complete the first loop of this year’s Barkley Marathons in Tennessee, arriving back in camp after 10 hours and 21 minutes, as reported by Keith Dunn on Twitter, then getting back out onto the course with less than 10 minutes’ rest. He was accompanied by Luke Nelson.
Note: this story is being updated as developments occur.
Numerous others have completed the first loop and are moving on to Loop 2, including multiple Fun Runner Jamil Coury, Maggie Guterl, first-timer Courtney Dauwalter, Wes Thurman, Scott Martin, Chris Hanlon, Liz Canty, Nikolay Nachev, Pavel Paloncy, Harold Zundel, Andy Pearson and Ian Farris. The following runners have been tapped out: Peter Mortimer, David Hughes, Ryan King, Ron Moore, Jake Rankinen, Tano Isola, Frank Gonzalez and Karen McNeany. Several runners still have not returned from Loop 1, but when they do they will be tapped out, since the 13:40 cutoff has long since passed.
— USTrailRunLive (@TrailLive) March 18, 2021
A recent update from Keith Dunn’s Twitter indicated that Guterl, Dauwalter, Canty and Coury had reached the fire tower on Loop 2, while Campbell and Nelson are still leading.
The race got underway just after 3 a.m. today, after a period of heavy rain in Frozen Head State Park. Dunn reports that the rain has resumed, and observers speculate the course is likely very muddy.
When runners drop out or miss a cutoff, they are “tapped out” by a bugler playing Taps. (See the video of Mike Wardian being tapped out during a previous year’s race, below.)
Good luck everyone racing #barkleymarathons @keithdunn & hope you avoid this 😉. Every time I have failed but every time I became a better athlete. I can’t wait to try again when the time is right. Go go go. If in doubt go up. #running #trailrunning #relentless #tbt pic.twitter.com/H7N9Rg13Uw
— michael wardian (@mikewardian) March 18, 2021
When the frontrunners reached the fire tower on the first loop (which sits at the top of the steep, bramble-infested climb known as Rat Jaw), Dunn predicted they would finish the first loop in nine or 10 hours, so they were slightly behind his prediction. Others have helpfully noted that in 2017, when John Kelly finished and Gary Robbins completed five loops but took a wrong turn and returned to camp from the wrong direction, resulting in a DNF, they finished the first loop considerably more quickly.
Don't I look great this year ☺️ https://t.co/PmtrFJVE6s
— Rat Jaw (@rat_jaw) March 18, 2021
The infamous 100-miler was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID, and this year’s race is a little different than in the past, with COVID passports and masking and distancing at the start. Participants (capped at 40 even in normal times) must either have been vaccinated or have had the virus and recovered. For obvious reasons, almost all participants are from the U.S., and there are more “Barkley virgins” (i.e first-timers) than usual.
Crew: I don’t know what happened to my runner!
Me: Barkley happened. #BM100
— Keith (@keithdunn) March 18, 2021
The race, which involves completing five repeats of a 20-mile loop on unforgiving and steep terrain in under 60 hours, has seen only 15 finishers in its 35-year history. Kelly had attempted the Barkley twice before finally finishing in 2017. He crewed for Robbins in 2018, who did not finish again that year. Kelly entered the race for a fourth time in 2019, shocking everyone by dropping out after two loops (and tapping himself out, since he knows how to play the bugle).
I didn't want to be 100% not involved in #BM100 this year, so I volunteered to be @MaggatronRuns' "Barkley coach." She volunteered this perfect gift in return. This worked out quite well.😅 Also she just finished loop 1 in 10:45. Looking for a sub 36 hour Fun Run & loop 4 start! pic.twitter.com/2nDcXi55Hd
— John Kelly (@RndmForestRunnr) March 18, 2021
No women have ever finished the race. In 2019, fans followed avidly as U.K. ultrarunner Nicky Spinks, Canadian Stephanie Case and several other women tackled the course, but were unsuccessful. Fans are rooting for Dauwalter (who won UTMB in 2019), Guterl (who won Big’s Backyard Ultra the same year) Canty (another veteran ultrarunner) and the other women in the race.