For the first time since
2015, 13 runners have completed two loops at the Barkley
Marathons under the cutoff time of 26 hours and 40 minutes.
All 12 runners are now on loop three at Frozen Head State
Park in Wartburg, Tenn.
Among the 13 runners are
major contenders Karel Sabbe, John Kelly, Damian Hall,
Jared Campbell and Jasmin Paris.
Hall has been working with
Kelly, completing the first leg in eight hours and 17
minutes and the second leg in just over 20 hours elapsed.
The two men are joined at the front of the race by Barkley
virgin Christophe Nonorgue of Switzerland, a 42-year-old
experienced ultratrail runner who’s competed at
Madeira, Diagonale des Fous on Reunion Island and UTMB,
and Albert Herrero Casas of Spain, who returns to Frozen
Head for the second time after completing one loop in
Runners were understandably slower on loop two than loop
one, considering they were going in the opposite direction,
in the dark. It was also extremely cold last night–Barkley
tweeter Keith Dunn mentioned that the water jugs at the
Fire Tower were “frozen solid.”
A group of three trailed the lead group of four, including
three-time Barkley finisher Campbell and Sabbe, who is
making his third appearance at Barkley after attempting
a fourth loop in 2022. The third runner in the group about
30 minutes behind Hall and Kelly is Joe McConaughy, who
is racing Barkley for the first time.
For the second straight year,
Paris is the last woman standing at Barkley, completing
two loops in 21:13:07. Last year, Paris achieved a fun
run after completing three loops of the course just under
the cutoff time of 40 hours. She has been on a faster
pace at this year’s race, completing the first two
loops two and a half hours faster than she did last year.
No female runner has ever finished the race.
Other runners who have completed two loops are Aurélien
Sanchez (FRA), Pavel Paloncý (CZE), Guillaume Calmettes
(FRA), Tomokazu Ihara (JAP) and Aaron Bradner (USA).
The completion of two loops
means that runners are 40 per cent done, but the best
is yet to come as the runners begin to battle with sleep
deprivation and the nasty terrain of Frozen Head State
Dunn, who is one of the very
few reliable sources for information on the race, says
runners are taking the “interloopal” period
more seriously. “There’s been a much quicker
turnaround than I have observed in the past, and the crews
are focused on time,” he says.
Loop three also is counterclockwise,
the same as loop two. The fourth loop will be clockwise,
which is easier, according to Dunn. If more than one runner
starts loop five, they must travel in opposite directions.
If runners complete a third
loop in under 36 hours, they must choose between settling
for a “fun run” or going out for a fourth
loop (which means they don’t get to claim a fun
run). Some might say it hardly matters, since both are
a DNF if they don’t finish all five loops with the
60-hour cutoff. (No one has achieved this since Kelly
did it in 2017.)
There are no Canadians in this year’s race, though
Jodi Isenor of Nova Scotia, who has made five appearances
at the Barkley, is crewing Kelly, which he also did in
2017, when Kelly finished.