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All 40 Runners Fail at 100-Mile Tennessee Mountain Race (bloomberg.com)
238 points by ph0rque on Apr 1, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 114 comments

It's interesting to note that in every year that someone finishes, they add additional parts to the course making it more difficult for the competitors in the following year.

In 2013, Nick Hollon finished in 57:41 and Travis Wildeboer in 58:41. A new hill was added, "foolish stu", increasing the total climb to over 60,000 feet.

In 2014, Jared Campbell got his second finish in 57:50. Another new hill, Hiram's Vertical Smile, brings the total climb to 62,680 ft.[1]

1- http://www.mattmahoney.net/barkley/

I think this "addition" of complexities needs to be treated as totally new course each time such addition is made.

Otherwise previous finishers (total respect to them of course) would claim to do something that new participants cannot using the identical name of event/race. Which in fact is totally different race by now.

Marathon is not adding extra 10km every year to compensate for too many finishers.

Barkley is not a sports competition in traditional sense. It is more like an ultra-ultra running event meets performance art and the very point of the event is to make it harder. Participants understand this and they are not there to compare their performance (sic) to the previous competitors.

Also, competitors are screened by totally different criteria than their previous ultra running successes: they have to write a letter to the organizer explaining why they should participate. Reasons can be something personal, not that they won Spartathlon in Greece in 2010.

There is a short documentary about the event available https://vimeo.com/97270099, and a full-length documentary making rounds at film festivals at the moment https://barkleymovie.wordpress.com/

One of the joys of putting on your own race is making up your own rules. This race is decidedly unlike a marathon by design.

>I think this "addition" of complexities needs to be treated as totally new course each time such addition is made.

I'm a trail runner and this isn't done, probably because conditions are always different year to year, so a modified route is just another misc change along with weather conditions which arguably would introduce more variance. Courses vary slightly all the time, due to trail conditions, environment and permit/access issues, plus minor rerouting around trail sections that are damaged or under repair, etc.

Western States, probably the most famous trail ultra, has had several minor route changes (due to fires, floods, snow, etc) in its history. They do not keep separate records for every variation of the route. Even Leadville rerouted the turnaround last year, which caused some confusion (including Krar technically going off course before regaining the route).

In the case of Barkley, the event is already pathologically designed so making it slightly tougher after each finisher is one of the quirks of the event. Nobody runs Barkley for time, just finishing is a huge deal (hence 14 or whatever finishers in 30 years). Heck, just completing the "fun run" (3 laps within the time limit) yields bragging rights, among trail runners at least. ;)

EDIT: grammar

I would agree with you if the competitors were in any way competing on time over the course of multiple years, but in reality they aren't. It's a one time race, repeated annually, and each course & victory stands alone. (Not like other extreme ultras like the Leadville 100, etc, where there absolutely is competition each year to lower the record.)

I don't think many ultra runners would consider Leadville extreme. It's mostly fire roads. Ever since the buy-out from Lifetime Fitness, the top runners seem to skip the event.

It's not the case that the race gets made longer each year, or ever. It is, however, rerouted to some extent each year. This is because part of the race is testing orienteering and route-finding skills. If it used same course every year people who returned to run again would have unfair advantage over the new people. Because the race director has a sense of humor, he may well choose to add elevation gain if too many people are doing well. His quip when people stop after one of the loops, unable to go on, "My only regret is that you could not suffer more."

The challenge gets harder! I like it :) This race seems to be all about finding your own limits. Too often challenges have little success in failure.

> Marathon is not adding extra 10km every year to compensate for too many finishers.

However, the orgranisers can alter its route. So technically, they could change the route accordingly.

They're not adding the extra obstacles to jump over either.

It's no brainer to come up with unfinishable course to "test the limits". Just add extra hill here and there, keep same time limit and call it a day with "mountains won!" statement.

Granted, this approach has it's own passionate followers and so it runs!

As someone who lives in the west, I'm just upset that they call the hills of Tennessee mountains.

Same sentiment; I'm really wondering how they managed to find 60kft of gain in (at best) hilly Tennessee. Then again, if you find a steep enough hill and run up and down it enough times (which it sounds like they do), I guess that would do it.

While I've no doubt this is a very difficult challenge, it seems contrived, and the comparisons to things like Everest are flippant. For one thing, you don't have to contend with the extreme weather of Everest, or the lack of oxygen, which you won't even get anywhere near because you never actually get anywhere near 8kft in altitude. Cross country hiking through brush? Yeah, I can do that; I avoid it when possible because that's not my idea of a good time and there are more interesting challenges.

Resembles one of my universities where they were lowering valuation of problems after exams depending on success rate (e.g. a problem worth 4 points was reduced to 0.8 if too many people had it correctly, and a problem worth of 0.6 points rose to 5 points if almost nobody had it).

Reminds me of a college exam I had on unix administration - 6 questions, 8 hours time limit, open book, open internet, open everything, you could even call your dad to ask for help or collaborate with classmates - yet only 2 people out of 30 passed. The highest score was 53%. Yet the teacher was able to demonstrate correct solutions for all the problems.

> every year that someone finishes, they add additional parts to the course making it more difficult for the competitors in the following year.

Correct me if I misunderstand,they were building a race track that no one could beat by process of iteration?

They're aiming for a course that is consistently _just_ at the limits of what the racers can accomplish. If they wanted a track that no one could beat, they would just add 50 extra miles...

Considering that 60k feet is well above the altitude at which most commercial planes fly, does anyone find the concept of "total climb" a little misleading? If they're basing it only on all the "ascents", then wouldn't going up and down one foot for 60,000 times also count as "60,000 feet of total climb"?

Also, it's too bad humans don't have regenerative braking...

No, not misleading at all. What measurement would you use instead to represent the amount of climbing involved in a route?

> wouldn't going up and down one foot for 60,000 times also count as "60,000 feet of total climb"

Yes. You try doing 60,000 step-ups and report back how easy that was.

What measurement would you use instead to represent the amount of climbing involved in a route?

The main issue I have with this "total climb" measurement is that it appears to depend on the "sampling frequency" - the closer together the points you sample the altitude of, the more rough the surface appears, and thus the more ups (and downs) to contribute to the measurement. It adds up, so the measurement isn't very meaningful without mentioning the sampling frequency used. Maximum altitude difference might be a bit better.

Yes. You try doing 60,000 step-ups and report back how easy that was.

I'm not saying it's easy, but this...

...would be easier than this...

     /\  /\  /\
    /  \/  \/  \
...and easier than this

      /\    /\
     /  \  /  \
    /    \/    \
or even this

        /  \
       /    \
      /      \
     /        \
    /          \
despite them all having the same "total climb". To take this to the extreme, consider a surface that varies up and down by 1 inch every inch. Run 60,000 feet on this surface, and you'll have achieved "60,000 feet of total climb."

A similar effect was described by Mandelbrot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_Long_Is_the_Coast_of_Britai...

Well, no. You would never change elevation, you'd be standing on top of the 1 inch peaks. It would be impossible to actually descend at all.

USGS dems are some of the best topographic data available:


The highest resolution is 1 meter (but they don't have that data for the entire US).

The crappiness of GPS based total elevation gain is pretty well understood, so they probably wouldn't use that. So as long as they used data (or a topo map) instead of GPS, you can assume that the sampling frequency was not ridiculous (and it probably only includes gain that is apparent over something like 10 or 30 feet).

I think you may have a point, I also think the total climb metric is loosing information with regards to the difficulty.

Maximum altitude difference has the same issue IMHO.

Maybe related to the [coastline paradox](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coastline_paradox)

I am -very much- not an expert but I suspect the difficulty profile is more like a hump than an upward slope - going downhill works different muscles than uphill and frequent* switching between the two seems like it would put more stress on you than uphill[hours]+downhill[hours] due to having two sets of muscles in use, less time for recovery, less time for warming up, etc.

(This is where we need a real physio / doctor / anatomist!)

Its an old riddle: what is the length of the coastline of Britain? Measure it by miles, you get one number. Measure by inches, another number. Measure the line that wriggles around every grain of sand at the waterline on every beach, you get 10X the number.

I think races are counting from inflection point to inflection point or something. Still, its arbitrary.

From a strictly theoretical point of view, yes, but in practice this isn't a concern. No-one measures the individual pebbles on the trail. Generally, the "feet of climbing" is measured vertically from the valley bottom to mountain top.

Except the Earth isn't actually shaped like this. Even less so, paths intended for running (or cycling). The numbers are dominated by real altitude gain, and anything missed or contributed by uneven road surface is minor by comparison.

I'd argue that the sampling frequency is each footfall.

It's a pretty standard way of counting for outdoorsy stuff in my experience. Most hiking routes will quote the total elevation gain, skiers and snowboarders track downhill vertical, and so on.

It would pretty misleading to quote net elevation for hikes. A loop up a mountain and back would have a net gain of 0' even if you hiked 2000' to the peak.

They only count the upward portions, not misleading at all

hence the use of "would" in the statement you are replying to

If you're somewhat familiar with marathons or have a flexible mind, it's not misleading. Check out this blog that analyses different height profiles of marathons: http://50-is-the-new-30.blogspot.com/2013/05/elevation-compa...

I don't feel it's misleading. If you climbed 60k in N hours, you did it, regardless of whether it was interspersed with descent. At least I don't see a difference.

I guess the only way it is a strange comparison is if you are imagining a 60,000ft high mountain in which case the two things are quite different. I wouldn't relish either challenge, but climbing a 60,000ft mountain would be a much greater challenge due to the altitude (which would include small inconveniences like your blood boiling!)

It is quite useless to a discussion to critique an established technique like this without offering alternative or explanation.

Obviously it is difficult to give objective ratings to very different kinds of elevation gain. 10 meters of steps up to McDonalds are easier then 10meters of vertical concrete wall, we all know this.

It is quite obvious you have no experience with this.

As an ultramarathoner I can tell you that the Barkley is notorious in the community.

Here are the r/ultramarathon threads on it this year:



Great comment on that first one:

"Fail is a strong word. I'm sure every one of the runners were successful in learning something about themselves. You fail by not trying."

Yup. Ultrarunning is about personal growth, the competition is there but it's almost secondary.

You also fail by failing to complete the race

Makes me think of "The Man in the Arena":

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


Not if you're running to run.

I live slightly south of Frozen Head, and have hiked there a number of times in the last year or so since I moved down here (dryish-winter hike[1], a snowy day up top[2]). It really is a beautiful park and TN state parks are free, so if you're in the area I recommend stopping by.

I've been trying to convince a few ultra-marathoner friends to apply for the Barkley since I got out here, but they're all extremely hesitant. From everything I've read and gathered this race is just totally unlike what they're used to out West in terms of its general terrain (including plants, stepping off the trails in the spring and summer you can quickly get into quite vicious thorns, and the race isn't really on trails anyways as far as I know), and overall idiosyncratic nature. The weather down here can also be all over the place this time of year. I hiked Frozen Head in the high 50s/low 60s back in late January or early February; this past Sunday I was 2 hours south, in the Smokies, hiking in 5-6 inches of snow.

It's certainly a personal pie-in-the-sky feat to dream about before I move away in a few years, but realistically I'll just settle for an AT through hike instead (which should be far, far more manageable).

[1] https://www.flickr.com/photos/23215983@N02/sets/721576407426...

[2] https://www.flickr.com/photos/23215983@N02/sets/721576422837...

If that kind race looks interesting, but you are not an ultra-marathoner, check out orienteering: http://www.mensjournal.com/adventure/outdoor/the-rise-of-ori....

It's basically a land navigation race. The club I'm in, (http://mnoc.org), does courses that are usually 3km to 8km in length (there will be several to choose from).

The events are pretty minimalist compared to obstacle races like Warrior Dash, mud runs, ect. It's just you, a map, and a large chunk of woods.

That actually sounds incredibly appealing, thanks for the heads up. I love finding my way with a map and a compass, but I've somehow never heard of orienteering specifically before.

I hike basically every weekend, but since most of that is in the Smokies I adhere to the trails. It would be nice to venture into some more self-guided routes. I have relatives up near the UP I visit once or twice a year, I'll definitely look into this the next time I'm near a more active orienteering community.

There's also the sport of rogaining, which is like orienteering but much longer (6-24 hours):http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogaining

Watched a great documentary on the Barkley awhile back. I've done a city full and a trail half marathon, but its mindblowing to comprehend just how rough this race is. For those not familiar with the handful of people who have finished, these guys are seriously tough. Brian Robinson has a wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Robinson_%28hiker%29) that highlights his accomplishments, and the Barkley is one of them:

"Brian Robinson was the first person to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail (or the Hiker Triple Crown) in one year, a total distance of over 7,000 miles."

"In the years following the Calendar Triple Crown, Robinson became an active ultra-marathoner. He has completed several 100-mile races, including the Western States 100 and the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run. In 2008 he set the course record at the Barkley Marathons, a grueling 100 mile course in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee."

Jared Campbell has also, I believe, won Hardrock previously.

The best part of that documentary (I'm guessing it's the same one) is that the official starting signal for the race is when Cantrell lights a cigarette.

Also, the license plate is part of the entry fee. You have to bring him a plate to enter in the race.

Also, there are no trails, no markers, and the only aid station is the starting line which you pass 4 times during the race. You do have to stop and check in at various stations to verify that you actually did the course. IIRC, you had to pick up some kind of memento from the station. As someone mentioned, you're frequently going through brambles.

The entire idea of the race was based on James' Earl Ray's attempted escape. Cantrell was fascinated that a man on foot could make it only 8 miles in almost 60 hours, and that led to him starting the race.

Which documentary is it?

My mistake, forgot to include the link: https://vimeo.com/97270099

it is probably the vimeo link posted by me earlier.

They call him Flyin' Brian Robinson for a reason.

A brisk walk is 4 miles per hour and an average walk is 3 miles per hour. If you do the race at a slow walk, 2 miles per hour, you'll do the 100 miles in much less than the allotted 60 hours.

Which means that the elevation and sleep deprivation must really take their toll. Those are the limiting factors, not running speed.

100 miles is 160 km. Tour du Mont Blanc is a 170 km trail around Mont Blanc and surrounding mountains, crossing from France to Italy and then Switzerland before returning to France.

Ultra-marathon runners can do it in 20-45 hours. They carry little but gel packs/etc.

My brother and I hiked it a few years ago, carrying a tent, cooking gear, food, etc. It's a lot of up and down and even if the down doesn't exhaust you, it grinds your knees. Elevation gain is 9,600m (so 31,000 feet). We did it in 9 days, from memory. Could've done it more quickly or walked longer each day but we generally allowed time to select a secretive but flat camping spot (camping wild on the Italian side is somewhat illegal), cook, wash clothes in the river, etc.

The up hill bits definitely slow you down.

Afterwards, we said "Never again!" but I haven't stop thinking about it since and would go back for sure. Highly recommended. Stunning scenery and a great challenge.

Check out Naismith's Rule. A climb of 60,000 ft alone adds about a hundred hours to the speed you've mentioned above.


It adds 30 hours at 3mph. 63 hours total.

actually there are 60000ft of ascent and 60000ft of descent in that race. With steep and or bad condition of descents (check the photos from the links others posted), you need to apply the rule (at least partially) to descents too. Thus we come almost all the way to 90hrs.

And speed has got to be a good bit slower at night.

There are some nice photos of the kind of backcountry terrain the runners have to contend with here: http://www.mattmahoney.net/barkley/

“I got a little confused where I was,” Coury said upon returning to camp, explaining that he took an eight-hour nap on a mountaintop after getting lost.

Man, I take one of those naps every day and I'm not even running 100 miles. What's wrong with me.

I'm left to wonder what is a regular sleep cycle for him ;-)

I'm planning to compete in a 75km race with 4 1000 meter vertical assents in October. This is about as mountainous as you can get in Australia. This is a walk in the part compared to the races in Europe, New Zealand and North America, which have more geologically recent mountain ranges, and communities in which alpine / mountaineering / orienteering and running cross over.

I've heard Anton Krupicka (well known and achieve North American ultra racer) refer to the UTMB (the most well known ultra marathon race in Europe, in which a loop of Mt Blanc taking in 3 countries is done) as "unexpectedly flat"

Here's some footage of that race: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=St49BdhuA8c

I look at the course profile for that, and the course profile for the 4 1000m assents for the 75km race I'm doing in October and think "how do that many people finish".

The US has harder races, which still have remarkably high finishing rates. The "Hard Rock 100" (miles) is basically at times a rope-free scramble up mountain tops, and it has a remarkably high finishing rate (when we're talking more that 10% of the field finishing, it's remarkable)

It's quite amazing the variation among ultra races, and 100 miles is not just 100 miles.

The interesting thing is that many of the trail / mountain runners need that sort of variation for psychological reasons and find things like 100 mile tarmac races to be more psychologically and physically taxing. A mountain / trail race having highs and lows geologically, mentally, physically but a flat tarmac race having less variation being harder to switch out of a down patch, and requiring serious inner resilience to counter-act a "runners low".

Good luck! Just remember: don't decide to quit while going uphill.

Hardrock has a high finishing rate because each of the 140 starters has already completed a difficult 100 mile race and likely years of lottery attempts to get in (Krupicka finally got in this year). Most other 100 mile races in the States are easier to enter and so have a smaller finishing rate.

But while a healthy reasonably-trained adult has a solid chance of completing Hardrock simply by putting one foot in front of the other and not giving up, Barkley apparently needs something more. Of the three people I know who started, including one this year, none finished. If physical ability and tenacity were enough all three would have finished. It's that hard.

I'd disagree on your assessment that a reasonably-trained adult can finish hardrock. I've done it twice. It's an almost full-time commitment to get in the training, and also you have to get out there a month in advance just to acclimate. I've done a lot of those type of races, and hardrock is the hardest.

I'm surprised there's nothing more extreme in Australia. I'm in Adelaide, and we have road cycling events with 4000m climbing in 140km. You don't need high mountains to get the total elevation, just lots of steep climbs.

We generally don't have sustained climbs, especially like those in Europe. In cycling terms, we don't have an Alp d'Huez or a Tormalet - something that is 15+ km of HC climb.

We tend to either 2 - 5km of sharp steep stuff, or maybe up to 15km of less sharp (like cat 3/4) climbs.

It's that sustained climbing at > 9% that will get ya.

You don't need the high mountains to get lots of total climbing. Look at the Ardennes races coming up in Belgium, or even the Amstel Gold race - 4000 meters of climbing in the Netherlands!

The 'back of the Falls' climb at Falls Creek is 9km at over 9%[1]. That's tough by any standards. Alp d'Huez in 'only' 8.1%.

Zoncolan is 10km at 11% but 8.5km at 15%.

Anyway, my point is that it should be possible to get the vertical metres in a trail run in Australia.

[1] http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCODY_3_Peaks_Challenge

"I'm surprised there's nothing more extreme in Australia. I'm in Adelaide, and we have road cycling events with 4000m climbing in 140km."

There is.

"completed the gruelling challenge in 37 days, 20 hours and 45 minutes, pedalling more than 377 kilometres a day ... On one occasion I rode right through the whole 24 hours and we got through 506 kilometres, "

You can read about Queensland Policeman, Dave Alley here ~ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-11-04/man-cycles-round-austr...

I thought it was clear by extreme we were talking about hilly? Clearly one can ride or run long distances.

"by extreme we were talking about hilly?"

Nope, extreme terrain comes in many forms: distance, temperature, altitude. Aus is low altitude. We do have temperature and distance.

Sorry, I should make it clearer. I used the word extreme to designate hilly. In the context of the original poster it's pretty clear:

From the OP: I'm planning to compete in a 75km race with 4 1000 meter vertical assents in October. This is about as mountainous as you can get in Australia. This is a walk in the part compared to the races in Europe, New Zealand and North America.... I look at the course profile for that, and the course profile for the 4 1000m assents for the 75km race I'm doing in October

The whole point is that you don't need high altitude to get extreme elevation change in a race. I'm more familiar with cycling, but in that sport there are probably only about 4 or 5 rides in the world we can't match in terms of hill climbing, and those are either extremely long continuous climbs (eg, Haleakala, Alto de Letras; our longest is 30km) or 10km+ at extreme gradients (over 10%; Mount Zoncolan, Alto de L'Angliru; out longest is around 9km).

Generally you can make the race harder by looping it over steep terrain, just like the Barkley does.

I was hoping the OP could enlighten me as to why we don't have trail runs in Australia that are just as challenging.

Hardrock has a high finisher rate because of the exhausting lottery system. You have to run a specific mountain 100 mile race in preparation. Also, Most of those people are returning runners.

There's a fascinating essay about this run here: http://www.believermag.com/issues/201105/?read=article_jamis...

The Outside magazine story of the Barkley is pretty good if you are looking for some background: http://www.outsideonline.com/1924491/60-hours-hell-story-bar...

It's be interesting to see Jornet try it sometime.

Now that you mention Kilian Jornet (the world famous sky runner), I can't refrain from saying that at KiteBit we actually built and run the service used by him and others to sell his movies.

Technology stack we have set up at KiteBit is RoR + Unicorn + Redis + Postgres + Vagrant. And we make also make use of Sendgrid + AWS S3 + CloudFront + ElasticTranscoder.

Kilian's movies and other stuff from him are on sale at his website summitsofmylife.com. This is a PrestaShop store but when it comes to the downloads and video streaming it's KiteBit (our service) which takes the relieve.

You should have included a description! I was about to post that link myself. It's a really impressive documentary about the race and shows why it's so difficult and what's so neat about it. The music score is awesome too.

I don't think most of the entrants expected to succeed, so that's not too big a surprise. Even in a "runnable" 100 mile ultra marathon, only about 50-70% usually finish the race. You can see some stats here:


The same race director puts on a much more finishable race - 314 miles, typically self supported, in the middle of summer, across the entire state of Tennessee:


It's on my list of runs to do.

I understand race preferences are idiosyncratic but what about Vol-State appeals to you? Distance? Crossing a state? Laz?

If anything on your list includes something in Colorado (or Bighorn or Fat Dog this year) send me a note--pacing is sometimes more fun than racing. (Same goes for anyone else reading this).

Is this really harder than Mount Baker Marathon? That one involves 108 miles of trail from sea to summit of 10,700 foot snow clad volcano. Just climbing the volcano alone even when starting at 5000ft is usually quite a bit of an accomplishment. This race adds a long ~100 mile run on the top of it.


Yea, way harder. The vertical climb is equivlant to going up and down your volcano almost 6 times.

Also, the whole thing thing is in backwoods on practically non-existent trails.

It always amazes me that there is always, always, a harder race out there then the one I've done.


Do you reckon the 1% of the people who completed are looking for something even harder?

Wow, that is a good thought as well. I imagine the 1% of competitors that complete the race would be willing to do any challenge given to them.

Just constantly driven.

There are a small handful of extreme races that are all approaching impossible in their own special way. The Barkley, because of it's traversal of insane undergrowth and ridiculous total elevation, is one. The Marathon des Sables (http://www.marathondessables.co.uk/) across part of the Sahara is another (6 days max to traverse 251km while carrying all your supplies except a tent (and you can refill water containers each night at the aid stations)). The Arrowhead 135 is essentially the same style, but conducted in northern Minnesota in the middle of winter (http://www.arrowheadultra.com/index.php/race-inforegistratio...). The Iditarod is a fourth.

I'm not sure Marathon des Sables belongs in that list. Badwater is almost the same distance, usually hotter, and without all the rest.

Meh, the Iditarod is easy. They should do the Antarctica dog sled race to the south pole. Amundsen did that one at the beginning on the 20th century with ease.

I once was in Argentina and met some people who were going to climb Vincent Mastiff in Antarctica. The tallest peak in Antarctica. It cost them something like $25,000 a person to fly their group in. Basically you have to get someone willing to fly a perfectly good long range airplane and land it on a glacier in the middle of nowhere with no hope of rescue if you screw up.. and then you have to have it take back off and get you back to south america. Now that's adventure.

Perhaps eitally refers to the Iditarod Trail Invitational?

> The Iditarod Trail Invitational is the world's longest winter ultra marathon by mountain bike, foot and ski and follows the historic Iditarod Trail from Knik, Alaska over the Alaska Range to McGrath and to Nome in late February every year one week before the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. The short race 350 miles finishes in the interior village of McGrath on the Kuskokwim River and the 1000 mile race finishes in Nome. Racers have to finish the 350 mile race in a previous year before they can enter the 1000 mile race.

Yes, thank you for clarifying.

Since not many sports news make it to HN's front page, I am wondering why this one did. Am I missing some context or is running just popular among the HN crowd?

It is a uniquely difficult and quirky marathon. One of the qualifications is bringing the organizer a pack of his favorite brand of cigarettes, etc.


I wonder if Dakar in the old days would have appeal here. I've always found it interesting. It was much more interesting in the old days when they, you know, actually went to Dakar, instead of holding it in South America. Its vaguely similar to this story although the dropout rate was only 60-75% and the media only covered the extreme driving aspect, by analogy this ultramarathon would be a pretty boring story if the only coverage available was people running up a hill in cool scenery.

Ultra distance running has always been something that has inspired me - I got into it through my friend Mal Law who has just run 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days over 50 mountains (I think adding the mountains made it unique compared to past efforts). http://www.high50.org.nz/

We need a new work for not succeeding at something as unfeasible as this. "Fail" doesn't seem appropriate...

All the runners came in 2nd to last, I guess.

Reminds me of the book Born to Run. For anyone who has taken any sort of interest in running, I highly recommend it. http://www.amazon.com/Born-Run-Hidden-Superathletes-Greatest...

I'd recommend it even more if you're not interested in running. It might change your mind.

Completely agree.

Pretty harsh. At the Old Dominion 100, finishers under 24 hours get a silver belt buckle, and there are always some handed out. It has plenty of relief--or so it seems to those going over Massanutten Mountain in the dark at about 70 miles in--but I'd guess the total climb to be well under 10,000 ft.

(Information based on going as "handler" a couple of times many years ago for a friend, who got the buckle on her second try.)

I knew this was Barkley without even having to click through. it is notorious, and unlike other ultras - tough terrain and tons of elevation gain/loss. I love running ultras, but I also like to finish. This one is not on my list.

Fail? I would say that they succeeded simply by getting most of the way.

Is the race supposed to honor James Earl Ray? That's fucked up.

I'm pretty sure that's not the case. My reading was just that his escape was the inspiration for this particular physical feat. I wouldn't say it honors him any more than those escape from Alcatraz triathlons honor the escapees or marathons in general are political statements about Athens v. Persia.

No, it's similar to the concept around the Alcatraz triathlon.

No, it's more of seeing James Earl Ray having a massively hard time in the mountains and saying, "That gives me an idea - there are people who will volunteer for this!"

What opportunities are there to get into long-distance orienteering races in the SF Bay Area? I'm already randonneuring and this seems like another sport worth exploring.

>With a finisher rate of about 1 percent, the Barkley has been labeled by many as the world’s hardest race

The 1% figure doesn't add up with the rest of the data they provide

> In 30 years, 14 out of about 1,100 runners have completed the race, made up of five loops around a mountainous 20-mile course. With a finisher rate of about 1 percent

14/1100 = 0.0127…

> Cantrell was inspired to hold a race in the rugged mountains by James Earl Ray’s failed 1977 escape from Brushy Mountain State Prison.

My southern racism sense is tingling.

It's like Ninja Warrior (the Japanese version).

Should it really be considered a "race" if less than 1% of people finish?

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