The Barkley Marathon is a backcountry ultrarunning competition consisting of 100+ miles of unmarked trails outside of Wartburg, Tennessee. The race is considered one of the most extreme events, with just 15 finishers since 1989. The course is a 20-mile loop and navigated in both directions, with a 60-hour time limit. The documentary, Where Dreams Go to Die provides a glimpse into the epic confluence of unsustainable endurance meshed with sleep deprivation. If you complete three laps, you have unofficially finished the ‘fun run,’ and that is considered a high honor in the running world.
What makes Barkley remarkable? The failure. Participants drop-out before completing the first loop. The course devours half the field before two laps. An event that embraces and celebrates defeat is considered the pinnacle of ultrarunning. The stories and legends strengthen the myth and mystery.
What experience would we offer if fans accepted failure in exchange for an extraordinary adventure? What can we learn from Barkley? Which failures have given depth to our stories?