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Watch This Barkley Marathons Doc, and Thank Your Lucky Stars You Aren’t Competing

If you haven't heard of the Barkley Marathons, you're in for a treat.

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Dubbed “the race that eats its young,” the world-famously grueling event is hosted by eccentrically cheerful sadist Gary Cantrell, aka Lazarus Lake. Covering 100 miles of frigid Tennessee mountain country, the race is part trail run, part scavenger hunt, part extreme test of mental and physical fortitude. Racers navigate via map and compass, complete five 20+ mile loops, and collect book pages along the way to prove they are on course.

“Barkers” endure running at night, barely any sleep, hallucinations, little chances for aid — and have to run in reverse directions (clockwise and then counterclockwise, and vice versa) through the woods. After each 20-mile loop, they’ve got to make it back before cutoff time if they want the chance to keep running, and a shot at a Barkley finish.

The Barkley Marathons have been held 38 times. Prior to 2023, only 15 runners had ever completed it. In fact, in 2022, the race had zero finishers.

Into this extreme event wades two notable Barkley Marathon virgins: Aurélien Sanchez from France, and Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy, a trail runner and endurance athlete with a spiffy collection of FKTs to his name. Can youngster McConaughy (or fellow first-timer Sanchez) do what only slightly more than a dozen folks in nearly half a century have completed? Settle in, pop some popcorn, and find out for yourself.

Runtime: 41 minutes

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