Will a Woman Finish The Barkley Marathon in 2021?


My son, Dave, is an untramarathoner. These are races of 50 and 100 miles. The most difficult of all of these races is generally thought to be The Barkley Marathon, which takes place in Frozen Head State Park in northeastern Tennessee. The race is currently underway—starting this morning at 3:04 a.m. with a fan favorite Courtney Dauwalter participating among the 40 racers as well as three-time finisher Jared Campbell. This race was started in 1986. It was nine years before anyone finished the race for the first time. Since then only 15 participants have finished and to date no woman has ever finished. It is this extreme. This 100 mile race consists of five 20 mile loops, which must be completed in 60 hours. The race, a curious mix of 100-mile ultratrail, orienteering challenge, and demonic scavenger hunt, takes place on a course that is not marked, and GPS watches are forbidden. After five loops participants will have climbed twice the height of Mount Everest in 60 hours.


To add to the complexity of this race at set checkpoints participants must find a hidden book and tear out the page corresponding to their bib number. This must be accomplished in the dark of night when one is fighting delirium. These pages then are turned in at the end of the race to prove that the participant has completed the course. This year’s race is taking place in particularly harsh weather. Early reports indicate that Jared Campbell finish the first loop in 10:21 and Courtney in 10:44. There are few tougher racers than Courtney Dauwalter. In 2019 she won the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, which circles the highest peak in the French Alps in Chamonix, France. Pictured are my son with Courtney at a race last year in Colorado. A distinctive appeal of ultramarathoning is the deep sense of community that it fosters forged in the caldron of extreme pain and fatigue. These are millennials at their global best!