If you don’t follow ultra and trail running, you likely haven’t heard of Jared Campbell or the Barkley Marathons. If you do, then you know what sort of feat it is to just finish this race, much less finish twice. Without a doubt it is one of, if not the, toughest 100-mile races in the world. You get twice the normal amount of 100-mile race time–60 hours, You climb and descend more than 50,000 feet. And the notion of “trail” is quite loosely defined. The 100 mile race consists of five 20 mile loops, while the “fun run” is three 20 mile loops for a total of 60 miles.
So tough is this race that it has been finished only 16 times by 14 runners since 1995. There are a couple of two-time finishers. Campbell is on of these people.
As the story goes, it was founded in 1986 by Gary Cantrell after he read about James earl Rays scape front he nearby prison in 1977, but was recaptured after 55 hours and having traveled only 8 miles. Cantrell figured he could do at least 100 miles in that time.
Here is a great story on the race. Here is Campbell’s race report form this year.
There is no race like Barkley. Mysterious. Crazy tough. IncrediblySeemingly impossible.
Jared Campbell lives in Salt Lake City and agreed to answer five questions. Many thanks to him. Hope you enjoy.
1) Is there a piece of gear you absolutely must have on every run, maybe a good luck piece of gear? (other than a watch, I suppose)
Shoes. I’m loving the La Sportiva Bushido. I’ve been running for Sportiva for years and this is by far their best shoe to date.
2) Whats the craziest thing you’ve encountered on the trail, whether race or just out for a run?
I was running/climbing up the West Slabs of Mt. Olympus (in the Wasatch Mountains) once and witnessed a mountain lyon in hot pursuit of a mountain goat. I never saw the kill, but it was clearly headed in that direction. It was fairly humbling. 3) Tell me about Nolans 14. I hadn’t heard of this (trail and ultra newbie). This is one helluva a course.
Nolans 14 is an incredible route and adventure. I love simple yet challenging objectives. Nolans 14 links up fourteen “14ers” [ed. 14,000 ft elevation] in the Sawatch Mtns of Colorado. It’s got a fair bit of gain (45kft) and is 90-110 miles long (depending on route), but the thing that makes it really hard is the altitude, which averages somewhere around 12,000 ft. A good portion of it is off-trail boulder hopping, which slows things down. Given that the definition is to start at one point and finish at another, tagging the summits in-between, it leaves the route up to you.
4) You’ve finished Barkleys twice. How many times have you run it? When you first attempted this race, how did you prepare for such a different type of event? I mean, other than having friends blindfold you and drop you in the middle of a forest naked and without anything.
I’ve been to Barkley 3 times (2012, 2013, and 2014);. All years I’ve done a ridiculous amount of vertical gain as my main training focus. Given that Barkley occurs on or around April 1st, it means you’re training for it in the winter, which in Salt Lake City, means snow. While this can be really hard (often post-holing) it is pretty good training for Barkley. I average about 25,000′ of gain per week, with peaks up to 50,000′ per week. That seems to be sufficient. Fitness is only part of the challenge, the rest is mental and navigation.
5) I assume you had your share of dark moments at Barkleys. Tell us about the worst point? How did you get fight through it? Do you have a mantra, something you tell yourself in tough times? Aside from the toughness of the course, since very few people have finished Barkleys do you think that could be a contributing factor in so many people not finishing? A self fulfilling prophecy, I guess?
Barkley is a huge mental challenge. I’ve done quite a few long/challenging routes so I suppose I went into it this year (2014) not intimidated, but very excited. The only way anyone is every going to get to the end (5-laps) is if they mentally commit up-front. Most people (especially Barkley virgins) start pretty intimidated and thus not committed. It’s not a race you see how you feel and play it by ear. It is guaranteed to hurt and likley absolutely suck for the last 20-30 hrs, you have to be ready for it and almost embrace that aspect of it. I suppose that is the main advice I can give. 🙂
Great interview, I like the advice to climb. I think like Jared, other racers like Killian also climb big numbers all week; while other runners are completing their 105 miles of mostly flat. I wonder if Jared will complete a 3rd Barkley to be on top. I wouldn’t doubt that he could complete 4. Now 5 or 6 might be out of reach.