Barkley 2003

March 29, 2003. Welcome to Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee, home of the Barkley 100 mile men's run and 60 mile women's, children's and weakling's run. The idiot had a surprise in store for us. We knew it was a new hill adding 400 feet of climb to each 20 mile loop, which already had 10,180 feet of climb, but he left us guessing at the details until we got here. However he did not extend the cutoffs, 60 hours for the 100 miler and 40 hours for the 60 mile fun run.

33 invited runners assemble at the starting gate in 40 degree F rain as the idiot is about to light the starting cigarette. The starting time, 7:38 AM, was only announced one hour in advance by the blowing of a conch shell which we could hear from our tents. We did not even know the starting date until we were accepted into the race. Entries opened on Dec. 26 and filled immediately. Only those whose essays were acceptable (Why I Should Be Allowed to Run the Barkley) received the bad news.

The first mile climbs 1000 feet. The second mile drops 1000 feet. The third mile climbs 1000 feet. And so it goes. The trail is in bad shape. It hasn't been maintained in 50 years. Any trees that once had trail blazes have long since died and fallen across the trail. At mile 6, we cross Son of a Bitch Ditch, below. It is 10 feet deep. It took me 4 hours just to get here. Only 3 of 33 runners would make it this far on the second loop.

The secret course change took us over Stallion Mountain, bypassing 2 miles of easy, flat dirt road with a lot of climbing and bushwacking. Of course, it was the only logical place.

Book 3 was moved to behind Bobcat Rock, below. (It's in the plastic bag behind me). To prove you ran the course, you have to tear out a page of each of the 11 books on the course. The books have theme titles like Chronicles of Wasted Time.

Immediately below Bobcat Rock is Leonard's Butt Slide, which descends at a 45 degree slope (100% grade) for the first few hundred feet. That's Leonard Martin below, for whom the slide is named.

Leonard collecting a page from book 4 at the bottom of Little Hell, below. This hill climbs 1260 feet in 0.56 miles at an average grade of 43%. The climb took us 45 minutes, an average pace of 80 minutes per mile. We are 10 miles into the race with 90 miles to go.

Below, Steve Simmons climbs Rat's Jaw with Leonard above him. The sawbriers are cut down here, so the thorns stick in your hands when you use them to climb. Everywhere else the the sawbriers are left standing so you can thrash through them and cut up the rest of your body.


Below, Leonard climbs Big Hell, 1580 feet in 3/4 mile. I suppose you're tired of looking at hills by now. Yeah, we were tired of climbing them too.

Cave Dog (Ted Keizer) was the only 100 mile finisher. He set a course record of 56:57:32. Here he is winning the 60 mile fun run along the way in 32:44:59. If you think you could do it, consider what else he has done. (Right) The idiot counts his pages.


Jim Nelson (below, left) and Mike Tilden (both Nolan's 14 finishers) were the only other fun run finishers. Their times were 35:05:16 and 35:04:47 respectively. Although they ran together, there are no ties at the Barkley.

Their award was to have their 100 mile DNF announced with the playing of Taps after they refused to continue their suffering. The bugler had a busy weekend.

A few other runners. (Left to right) Sarah Tynes and Rich Limacher quit on loop 1 when it got dark and and the rain turned to snow and took a shortcut back to camp. Mark Dorion and Mike Dobies quit at Bald Knob (5 miles) on lap 2. Leonard and I were right behind them. Steve would not start lap 2 in the dark and 35 degree rain. This photo was taken on day 2 in snow flurries with 3 runners still on the course. Temperatures in the mountains were in the teens. The two sets of water jugs on the course had frozen, and the runners had to drink from streams.

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Matt Mahoney