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No winners in 2021 Barkley Marathons

Only 15 people have finished the Barkley in the past 35 years.

MORGAN COUNTY, Tenn. — UPDATE(March 19, 5 p.m.): Officials said the Barkley Marathons were over at around 4:30 p.m. on Friday. They said that there were no winners.

Keith Dunn said that runners dropped out as temperatures were expected to drop overnight.


A single marathon usually goes for around 26 miles, but not the Barkley Marathons. It takes participants through a 100-mile unmarked, off-trail course through Frozen Head State Park instead.

On Thursday, runners took off and started the event. The marathons have fans all around the world, but only 15 people have finished it in the past 35 years. There were no finishers in the 2020 marathons after the COVID-19 pandemic closed Tennessee State Parks, effectively canceling the race.

Runners have 60 hours to finish the 100-mile race. There is no online registration and participants must figure out how to apply through word-of-mouth. 

"After a bride memorial for the members of the Barkley family who no longer are with us, the cigarette was lit at 3:04 a.m.," said Keith Dunn, an official with the race.

They must also find books on the course and tear out the page corresponding with their race number to prove they ran a full loop. They are given a new race number for each loop.

Officials said that the Morgan County Cattleman's Association provides food for participants to purchase through the race, and the Morgan County Tourism Alliance offers field guides for runners. They are designed by locals and explain fauna and flora in the area.

Runners are also issued a standard watch set to the race time, and no other watches are allowed. This year's watch was an analog pocketwatch.

Dunn also said that one person dropped out of the race five and a half hours into the race. He also said that this year's marathons feature more newcomers than veterans, because of travel restrictions.

A documentary was also made about the race in 2014 — The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young.

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