With almost an entirely American field – international runners did not participate due to pandemic measures – last weekend’s Barkley Marathons had no finishers for the third time in a row. That’s hardly a surprise, either, since the event is known as perhaps the toughest running event in the world, with athletes plodding for days on end to cover 160 kilometers and 18,000 feet of climbing.
What makes the event even tougher is that 160-km distance is divided into five laps, and there’s a time limit for each lap. If a runner does not meet that time limit, he or she is forced to drop out. Adding to the challenge, the start time and course are not announced until an hour beforehand. Jaren Campbell and Luke Nelson made it furthest this year, but were also dropped from the race after three of the five laps. The last time someone crossed the finish line was in 2017, when John Kelly managed to finish.
In this year’s edition only sixteen participants managed to complete the first lap within the time limit. After twenty hours there were only ten runners left and, in the end, Campbell and Nelson stayed in the longest. They retired after 39 hours and 4 minutes.