Barkley Marathon worlds toughest race?

When exactly is the 2018 Barkley Marathons?

When the heck does the event start?

March 22nd, 2018 

Barkley Marathons

Photo: Michael Doyle.

The highly-anticipated Barkley Marathons, a certainly-more-than 100-mile trail race in the Wartburg, Tenn. area, is approaching.

Historically, the notoriously difficult race – only 15 people have finished the Barkley in more than 30 years – has been held on what is referred to as Fools Weekend, or April Fools. That would lead one to think that the Barkley starts on March 30-31. According to Matt Mahoney’s Barkley data, the race has not been held prior to March 27 since at least 2003.

This year, however, may be different. And it may or may not have to do with the heightened interest (due to two documentaries being released in recent years about the BM100) in the race and the fact that spectators are highly discouraged from travelling to the park to watch the Barkley.

On Thursday, Canadian ultrarunner Gary Robbins shared what appears to be photos from Frozen Head State Park, Tenn., the site of the Barkley Marathons. Complete with snow, too. The 2018 Barkley will be the North Vancouver, B.C.’s resident third attempt at finishing the ultramarathon.

Meanwhile, filmmaker Billy Yang shared a podcast episode to his Twitter account adding in the tweet that he was excited to have Barkley Marathons entrant Guillaume Calmettes on the podcast “ahead of the Barkley Marathons this weekend.”

Another ultrarunner who may or may not be racing – no official entry list is provided – shared a photo from Frozen Head State Park on Thursday. The yellow gate in the park, which denotes the start and finish line of the race, is seen in the photo.

The Barkley Marathons must be completed within 60 hours. The event, limited to 35-40 runners who enter through a mysterious registration method, involves completing five laps of a 20-mile (though likely longer) loop. Typically, rules vary slightly year-by-year though the basics of the race – no GPS watches, collecting pages of books to prove you followed the route and navigating with a map – remain largely unchanged.

The fact that John Kelly finished the Barkley Marathons in 2017 may lead Gary ‘Lazarus Lake’ Cantrell to make the rules slightly more difficult in 2018. Laz Lake is the race director.

If the start of the race is March 24, runners will hear the blowing of a conch, which signals one hour to start time, sometime between 11 p.m. on March 23 and 11 a.m. on March 24. Once 60 minutes expires, Laz Lake lights a cigarette to send participants off.

Of course, the race may well be the weekend of April Fools.

The Barkley Marathons: A brief timeline


First ever Barkley Marathon takes place. 50 miles, no finishers. 


Still no finishers. 


Distance increases to 55 miles and “Frozen” Ed Furtaw becomes the first official Barkley finisher.


A 110-mile route is added with a 50-hour cut-off, nobody ever finished it.


The 20-mile lap system and the 100-mile route are introduced with a 60-hour cut-off. Mark Williams becomes the first 100-mile finisher in 59:28 2001 David Horton and Blake Wood finish together in 58:21.


No race due to a temporary closure of Frozen Head National Park.


Ted Keizer sets a new record of 56:57.


Mike Tilden finishes in 57:25, closely followed by Jim Nelson in 57:28.


Brian Robinson sets a new record of 55:42.


Andrew Thompson finishes in 57:37.


Jonathan Basham finishes in 59:18.


Brett Muane finishes in 57:13.


Brett Muane sets a new course record of 52:03. He’s followed by Jared Campbell in 56:00 and John Fegyveresi in 59:41. A record year with three finishers.


Nick Hollon finishes in 57:39, followed by Travis Wildeboer in 58:41.


Jared Campbell finishes again in 57:53.


No finishers for the first time in eight years.