You may have heard of the Barkley Fall Classic. If not, here is what little I know about it. It’s the itty bitty brother of the famed Barkley Marathon. It stretches the length of a 50K to supposedly 34-36 miles, all of which are within the unfriendly confines of saw brier and rattlesnake infested mountains of Tennessee. The BFC isn’t your ordinary 50k. If it was, I wouldn’t be doing it.
Given that I’m not into distance running and my only races since 2011 have been of the obstacle variety, I’m not exactly sure how my brain allowed me to register. I know absolutely nothing about ultra running. My brain said “this would not be your best decision,” but my heart leapt at the thought of a refreshingly new challenge. It was drawn to a small community of racers who have done or are doing what only a few have done. It saw an extremely difficult event immune to the forces of mainstream sports (of which obstacle racing is inching steadily towards). The BFC is void of glitz and glamour and marketing and multiple waves separated by ability level. Just one small group of crazies leaving the starting area at the still dark and foggy hour of 7:00 a.m., with many (including me) just hoping to return by the cutoff 13 hours and 20 minutes later. Yes, that’s a long time and the scary part is that a lot of people don’t make it.
Will I finish this race in the time allotted? I don’t know. I really don’t. I do know that I completed 28 miles of the 2012 Ultra Beast on Vermont’s Killington Mountain in less time than this cutoff. The problem is that over the years, my heart has minimized the brutality of that race. The UB included a gazillion obstacles strewn up and down the mountain, 300 burpees, long barbed wire crawls up the mountain, a near case of hypothermia, and a rain storm — all following a summer in which I had logged less than 25 miles TOTAL because of a stress fracture and knee bursitis. I completed that Ultra Beast not from innate ability or intense training, but out of sheer willpower. I expect I may need to do the same this weekend.
Finish or not, as long as I don’t die from rattlesnake venom or become permanently stuck in the saw briers, stories will follow.
Hey Jeff…enjoyed your post here! It touched on something I just wrote about again…the growing schism between the weekend warrior Spartan and the elite racers (what I would call the old-school Spartans). I’d welcome your comments on my post below, which also includes a reference to one from David Hellard that shares some common threads with these ideas as well as where the industry itself is heading. Good luck with the race!! Wish I were ready to step it up myself.