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The 2020 Barkley Marathons are cancelled

There won't be a 2020 Barkley

Gary Robbins

Predictably, the 2020 Barkley Marathons have been cancelled. The event, which takes place in Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, requires the fitness of endurance ultrarunning, the brain power of orienteering and the resilience of a never-ending scavenger hunt. Runners must complete five 20-mile loops while collecting particular pages from 14 books hidden throughout the course. This is all done in less than 60 hours.

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Canadian Gary Robbins has a long history with the event, including a couple near misses of completing the course before the time cut off. He was hoping to return for the 2020 event to finally finish the Barkley. However, as a race director himself, Robbins understands the need to postpone or cancel races. He wrote on Instagram: “For the first time in 9 years as a race director we’ve had to postpone an event. It’s been a crazy week to say the least. I’m supposed to be out flagging a race course as I type this right now.”


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Even before the race was officially cancelled, runners were sharing on social media that they’d be unable to attend the event due to travel bans and advisories. Karel Sabbe is European trail runner who was entered in the race. He shared on Instagram on Sunday, “The uphill battle to reach the United States got steeper than the Rat Jaw ascent. It’s with pain in the heart that I won’t be able to run Barkley this year. Although I had the feeling that it would be my year, it’s not going to happen. Taking some time off now and then focus on some really exciting new adventures.”

As for other late spring and early summer ultra races, Western States Endurance Run and the Comrades Marathon have yet to be cancelled, but they’re monitoring the situation closely.