I recently became a board member for our local road runner club, Harrisburg Area Road Runners Club, and we held a fun event to celebrate the Strawberry Moon. We hosted our very own version of the Barkley Marathons! In case you are not familiar with what the Barkley Marathons is, here is a quick run down.
The race was created by Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell after hearing about James Earl Ray’s escape from the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. Ray escaped the prison and lasted alone in the Tennessee woods for 55 hrs and only made it 8 miles before he was found. Upon hearing about that, Cantrell said to himself, “I could at least do a 100 miles.” That was the start of the Barkley Marathons. It is a course that consists of loops through the Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee. To make sure that you are staying on course, there are books hidden along the way. Each loop, you are given a different bib number, which you are to tear that specific page out of every book on the loop. Upon your return to the fabled yellow gate, Cantrell counts your pages to make sure you got them all.
It is difficult to be chosen to participate in this race. The race is limited to only 40 runners and the registration process is a closely guarded secret. Typically, registration entails mailing an essay stating why you should be chosen to run and a $1.60 registration fee. if you are chosen, on race day you bring a license plate from your home state and an item of clothing that Cantrell has requested in his size, such as socks, plain white shirts, and button down flannel shirts.
Needless to say, this is a very quirky and unique race. We, at HARRC, decided to create our own version of the Barkley. The registration fee for our run was a non-perishable item to be given to one of our local food banks. Our fearless leader, HARRC President Kelly, started the evening by blowing on a Conch Shell (just like Cantrell). Each participate was given a bib number and immediately before Kelly’s cigar was lit, a map. The map listed the general area where the books were hidden as well as hints to help runners locate them.
We informed the runners that there would be three prizes at the end of the run, Runner with the Fastest Time; Runner with the Shortest Distance Covered; and Runner with the Longest Distance Covered. An added aspect to our race was, there was no set course, each runner could choose which book to go to first, as long as they got them all. After explaining the ins and outs of the race, we went outside for our obligatory group photo and prepared to light the cigar. The Barkley Marathon officially starts once Cantrell lights his cigarette. To officially start our race, Kelly lit a cigar. 🙂
The runners were off in the nasty humid heat and the rest of us went back inside to wait for them to return with their book pages. We had around 20 participants, so as they started coming in, it got a little hectic!! We divided and conquered and kept tally of the runners that came in, if they had all their pages and what their bib numbers were for the next loop. It was really quite a fun time for us as well as those that ran. Our first finisher came in around 45 minutes and then the rest of the runners came in at a steady stream from there.
This race is definitely something that I think we will be doing again and we already have ideas to add for the next time! 🙂
If are in my local area and are interested in joining a running club, head over to our website and check it out! www.harrc.org It’s a great group of people, we have weekly club runs, full moon runs and other fun activities! 🙂 I’d love to see you there!