WARTBURG, Tenn — Two Colorado women were among the last people on the course during this year's Barkley Marathons, a masochistic foot race in the Tennessee mountains that only 15 people have even finished during its 35-year history.
Ultramarathoners Courtney Dauwalter and Maggie Guterl both finished the second loop of theoretically a five-loop course in 26 hours and 52 minutes -- just 12 minutes past the cutoff to begin a third loop and complete what the race's organizer calls a "fun run."
Only two runners -- including Jared Campbell, who has finished the race three times -- were allowed to vie for a "fun run," and they won't finish under the cutoff to try for a finish.
More than half the time, no one does, and no woman has ever finished the full five loops.
There's a documentary about the Barkley Marathons on Netflix, but here's the concept: runners have 60 hours to complete five laps of what's advertised as a 20-mile loop (the runners say it's closer to a marathon) through the rugged mountains of Frozen Head State Park.
The course changes each year, and five loops accounts for around 60,000 feet in elevation gain -- or the equivalent of running up and down Mt. Elbert from sea level more than four times. Whenever runners quit -- and most do after just a lap -- the race organizers play "Taps." The entry fee is also around $1.60 and something random like a pack of cigarettes, a license plate or a t-shirt, and it's virtually impossible for novices to figure out how even to apply.
The Barkley can start anytime from midnight to noon on race day, and the sound of a conch indicates there's an hour until it starts. This year, Gary Cantrell -- the mastermind behind the event -- lit the cigarette that signifies its start at 3:04 a.m.
Both Dauwalter and Guterl are among the most accomplished ultrarunners in the world. They have both won another masochistic event -- the Big Dog Backyard Ultra -- outright, beating all the men.
It's worth mentioning that Big's Backyard Ultra is also organized by Cantrell and forces runners to complete a 4.1667-mile loop at the top of every hour until only one runner remains. Dauwalter won the 2020 edition with 283.33 miles. Guterl won in 2019 with 250 miles.
Dauwalter won the 2018 Western States 100 (you can watch her talk to 9NEWS in the video below) and won the even longer Moab 240 outright.
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