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Cat Talk

The student news site of Millbrook High School

Cat Talk

The student news site of Millbrook High School

Cat Talk

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The Barkley Marathons

The Barkley Marathons are held each year in the months of March and April. With grueling obstacles along the way, only 20 people have ever managed to complete the full 100 mile race in 60 hours.

  The Barkley Marathon is a 100-mile ultra marathon that few people can enter, and even fewer can race. Held in Frozen Head State Park in Morgan County, Tennessee, runners and photographers look forward to the event each year. 

  The event is held on a different day each year, but the race usually happens in the months of March or April. The overall process of the marathon is very secretive, and creator Lazarus Lake does this to keep the integrity of the event.

  The way to enter the race is kept a secret and hard to do, as it is the first challenge of many more to come in the future. Putting in the effort to research and discover is the first test of if you are willing to participate in the grueling event. 

  Each year Lake creates a new path through the dense woods of the state park, and keeps one map of the whole race. Once racers are selected, they will share the master map to create their own versions. This is challenging because if a coordinate is off, it could be crucial to completing the challenges of the race. Senior cross country and track runner Luke Nordone said, “This would be the hardest part of the race for me. Having to make and rely on that map sounds super hard.” 

   The next challenge after signing up is paying the fee of $1.60 and bringing a license plate from your home state. For veteran runners, instead of a license plate they are required to bring whatever it is that Lake wants. In past years it has been a pack of socks and a flannel.

  Once in the park, and signed up for the race, runners set up their tents and supplies. The marathon can start anywhere from 11 p.m. on the Saturday racers arrive, or it can begin the following Sunday morning. A conch shell is blown to signal an hour before the race will begin, so runners can have time to pack and eat what they will need. 

  The official start begins when Lake lights a cigarette at the famous yellow gate that runners must touch after each lap to officially complete that stage. Entering the race is hard enough, but the grueling challenges ahead have just begun. 

  The 40 “unlucky” racers, as Lake calls them, head off on the unmarked trail with a compass, their handmade map, and each other. The 100-mile race is split into five 20-mile loops. These loops have landmarks each time that have been named by previous runners. Some of these landmarks are called Rat Jaw and Bad Thing. With different obstacles with each one, the names all have a negative taste to the runners racing through the mountains. 

  To make sure that the runners are completing the full loop, there are 10 books around the course in which contestants will rip the page number out that matches the number on their bib. The loops change directions each time starting with the first two loops clockwise, the next two loops counterclockwise, and the final loop is depending on what the runner ahead is doing. 

  Many runners can’t complete the first three laps, let alone the entire five. This is why Lake named the first three loops the “Fun Run.” This gave many runners a sense of accomplishment by finishing a part of the race. Junior cross country and track runner Colson Griffin said, “If I could run 100 miles, I would definitely try and complete this race.” 

  With runners having to push themselves for 100 miles, with little human connection and sleep, this race pushes both the physical and mental capacity of all runners racing it. With a time limit of 60 hours to complete the five loops, many runners run on little to no sleep to make the cut off. 

  With the mental toll it takes on runners, there have only been 20 people that have completed the full 100-mile race in the 60 hours. In 1986, Ed Furtaw was the first person to ever complete the full race. In 2024, Jasmin Paris was the first female to ever complete the race, finishing with only 99 seconds before the 60 hour cut off. 

  The Barkley Marathon is an exclusive event that not many people get the chance to even attempt. With the tough challenges along the way, this race tests the runners mental and physical strength from the start to the finish. 

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About the Contributor
Kenley Belcher
Kenley Belcher, Entertainment Section Editor
Hey everyone! I’m Kenley Belcher, and this is my second year on the Cat Talk staff. I’m super excited to be back writing articles, and I am very excited for this school year. I am currently a junior this year, and I participate in cross country, winter track and spring track for Millbrook. I am also a part of the junior class council and sports med. Outside of school I love to travel and hang out with my friends and family. I hope you like the Cat Talk!

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