Ultramarathons… Going Mainstream?


There have been stories written about ultras over the years. Badwater. Scott Jurek. Perhaps even Ann Trason and/or Kilian Jornet.

With that being said, something unusual happened this week. On March 27, Bloomberg previewed the Barkley Marathons.

If you aren’t familiar with Barkley, here is a little history:

– the race was first run in 1986
– Gary Cantrell came up with the race after James Earl Ray (MLK’s killer) escaped prison in the area and only made it 8 miles in 55 hours
– Barkley has had only 16 finishers
– only 40 people run Barkley each year (although many more apply)
– applicants request an entry form when entry opens, and the entry includes an essay on why you should be allowed to run
– the race starts sometime between midnight and noon – you get a one-hour warning before the start
– the race starts with the lighting of a cigarette
– the course is not marked – runners use a map and a compass
– along the way, runners tear out pages in books placed along the course as proof that they were there
– in 2014, the course had nearly 63,000 feet of vertical
– there is a 60-mile “fun run” that many consider harder than Hardrock

Here is an excellent short film on Barkley:

Another film is currently on the festival scene: The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young

Anyhow, that’s Barkley. It’s hard – really hard. It may be the hardest “running” race there is. Nobody finished Barkley this year – and Bloomberg noted that fact in a second article about the race.

Has ultrarunning gone mainstream? I know that ESPN isn’t exactly knocking at the door… but Bloomberg? Twice? Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Not even a thing?

If you’ve never done an ultra before, do you want to now that they are getting more press?

If you have done an ultra, what made you do it?

Have you ever been to Tennessee?

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6 Responses to Ultramarathons… Going Mainstream?

  1. So interesting! I recently stalked Wikipedia extensively about Badwater and found it fascinating! No plans for an ultra for me, first step is building up to ten miles again after spraining my ankle 😉 but never say never! 🙂

  2. runsonsyrup says:

    Eh, I wouldn’t use the term “mainstream” just yet. I think that particular race got some headline attention simply because of the novelty — no one finished! I still haven’t encountered a nonrunner who knows what in heck an ultramarathon is 🙂

  3. Tess says:

    I’m hooked. I’m going to read. Thanks for the new reading material. 🙂
    And yes…I do want to run an ultra an have for as long as I’ve been running marathons which is 100 years. 😉 But only just now feel like I could get away with it.

    I’m a sucker for a good story. 🙂 Off to read about creepy dudes…

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