Sometime at the end of this month, or early next, Gary “Laz” Cantrell will light up his cigarette to signal the departure of one of the toughest race in the world : the Barkley.
The Barkley is an ultra marathon (120 miles/ 160km – 54,000feet / 16,000m positive climb) to be completed within 60 hours. The few invited participants have to complete 5 loops on extremely challenging terrain with no aid station except water at two points along the route. Since its start in 1986, only 14 runners completed the course (out of 800)!
“If you’re going to face a real challenge, It has to be a real challenge” says Laz. “You can’t accomplish anything without the possibility of failure”
The race takes place in the Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, Tennessee near the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. Martin Luther King’s assassin James Earl Ray escaped that same prison in 1977. 55 hours later, Earl Ray was captured only 13km away from where he started. Laz who was used to the Tennessee woods claimed then that in 55 hours he would have run 100miles: the Barkley was born…!
“For some people to finish one loop is the achievement of a lifetime” Laz ads. “For some people, just to get back to camp alive, is the achievement of a lifetime…”