No One Finished the 2022 Barkley Marathons, Again
For the fifth year in a row, no one could best the infamously rugged course at running’s quirkiest event
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The course has won again.
For the fifth consecutive year, there were no finishers at the infamous Barkley Marathons. An incredibly deep field was lined up to face the beast. This included a mix of Barkley veterans like Courtney Dauwalter, and 2017 and 15th-person-ever Barkley finisher John Kelly, and strong Barkley virgins like Big’s Backyard record holder Harvey Lewis, 2017 Big’s champion Guillaume Calmettes, and Appalachian Trail fastest-known-time holder and Belgian dentist Karel Sabbe.
Other runners, like Amelia Boone, Gary Robbins, and Johan Steene, were originally slated to compete in this year’s race but dropped out due to injuries, moving on, and testing positive at the airport for COVID, respectively.
The 2022 edition was particularly heavy on international runners after the cancellation of the 2020 edition and pandemic-related travel restrictions for the 2021 race.
For this year’s race, Barkley creator Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell threw one of the biggest curveballs in race history, holding the event three weeks ahead of when it normally runs, around April 1. Additionally, he scheduled the race for the middle of the week, on Tuesday, March 8.
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There were concerns that the earlier time slot could create more difficult weather challenges, but when the conch was blown at 5:54 a.m. on Tuesday, relatively average Barkley conditions awaited.
The race started cold but warmed up considerably during the day. Runners seemed to favor this, with 30 of the 38 entered completing the first loop and starting a second. This was a Barkley record.
However, when night fell on day one, so did freezing rain. This was reminiscent of the 2019 race, when rain took out most of the field overnight.
As a result, only five participants were able to start a Fun Run loop, which is three loops. This group included Sabbe, Kelly, Brit Jasmin Paris, New Zealander Greig Hamilton, and Dane Thomas Dunkerbeck. Paris is the first woman in a decade to complete a Fun Run.
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Of these five, Sabbe, Kelly, and Hamilton were able to finish three loops with time to start a fourth. Sabbe came in first from loop three in 32:21:49 and left just under 20 minutes later. Hamilton returned to camp in 34:20:39 and left for loop four with daylight breaking 34 minutes later.
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Kelly came into camp at 35:26:09 and chose to face the bugle after completing his Fun Run.
Dunkerbeck and Paris were also able to claim Fun Run finishes in under 40 hours, but not before the loop-four start cutoff. This finish was especially notable for Paris, who earned the honor of being only the third woman ever to complete a Fun Run. She joins the ranks of Bev Anderson-Abbs (2012 and 2013) and Sue Johnston (2001). She is also the first woman to complete at least two loops since 2016.
Overnight, Hamilton and Sabbe were the only two left on the course. There were hopes of seeing a finish, but both runners had problems. Sabbe reportedly ran into navigation issues, getting lost and seeking help from a trash can he thought was a person, some passing motorists, and eventually the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, which gave him a lift back to camp, according to Barkley media sensation Keith Dunn.
A police car pulled up to Frozen Head at 5:00 this morning. The sheriff had been called for a “woman dressed as an Indian” who was scaring the village of Petros. It was Karel Sabbe, after getting lost during his 4th loop… and so the Barkley 2022 will not have a finisher. pic.twitter.com/7TP7bNO5aW — Alexis Berg (@Bergalx) March 10, 2022
Hamilton, an orienteering expert, was still out on the course when he timed out on loop four at the 48-hour mark, ending the Barkley early Thursday morning.