Concepts for Success at Barkley for 3 Loops and Beyond


Written by Andrew Thompson


1.      This is not a list of tips. You will not find information about what to carry, what to wear, what to eat, what light to use, what shoes to wear, or the correct declination for the Park. If you need tips, you are not ready for 3+ loops at Barkley. If you have not perfected your skills for overland foot travel, incorporating night, day, no aid, no trail, no trail markings, and tight time limits, then you are not a strong candidate for Barkley success.


2.      Do not commit camp self-sabotage. When finishing a loop or even a difficult section after which you can expect a break (a water drop for example), do not allow yourself to ride out the course to the inevitable end, slipping into a micro-famine knowing that aid is on its way. This is the impulse when we have ‘only 1 mile of downhill to camp’. One may stop eating, drinking, buttoning-up clothing, taking supplements, monitoring one’s self, maintaining proper foot placement, etc. Doing this results in arriving at camp in shambles and only further promotes the impulse to QUIT.


3.      Success at Barkley is achieved in camp and not on the course. Camp at Barkley is not a time-out. It is not a warm place to sit and consider whether one will continue into the suffering of the Brushy Mountains. If your mind is not made up upon the final book of a loop, it will be made up for you in camp, and you can reflect on THAT in a warm shower after you QUIT. Camp is the place you see during the brief moments of scrambling about, retrieving the things you need on the next loop (even if sleep is one of these things). When those things have been gathered, you are gone. It is not a place for decision-making. Once back on course, the clever boy will move as swiftly as possible, as this is the only real way of minimizing the grief of the Barkley Marathons.


4.      Remember the Sunrise/Sunset principle. All things in life exist on a curve. When conditions are at their worst, the hill is at its steepest, the miles are furthest from the finish, remember that any improvement regardless of size or scale or outcome, is an improvement nonetheless, and instantly makes progress easier. Nothing in life becomes exponentially more difficult; all things exist on a curve. If it easy, it will become hard; if it is hard, it will become easy. If people would have remembered this principle this year (2005) they would have enjoyed days of clear skies, starry nights, and sunsets if they could have just endured the snowy struggles of loop 1. Instead they QUIT.


5.      Do not be driven away by the 2nd loop blues. The tendency during a 3+ loop outing is to begin to analyze the status of oneself while out on loop 2. You are hurting. It is dark. It sucks. It’s raining. And the thoughts creep in. “So I finish this and I have, what, another fun-run remaining ?!” This thinking is self-destructive. Loops 1 and 2 are in place in order for the successful runner to deliver himself into the game--that place in which he can begin competing. 1-5, each loop is different. Loops 3-5 are the game. Loops 1-2 is filling out the race application.