If anyone has ever spoken to me about documentaries they’ve probably had the (mis)fortune to hear me go on about The Barkley Marathons ad nauseam.
This documentary follows 40 runners on their journey to complete The Barkley, a race which just might be both the hardest, and most bizarre race in the world. Everything about this race seems like something out of a nonsensical fever dream, which, obviously, means that as soon as this film finished I wanted to run it. I mean, I would also obviously die (and therefore go down in Barkley history) if I ever attempted it, but nonetheless I would still love to run it.
The race itself spans a total of 100 miles (though the participants seem to think its closer to 130) through the unmarked Tennessee woods. To traverse the woods the runners will need to rely on their ability to navigate by compass, and hope they’ve marked their map correctly. They are given a total of 60 hours to complete the race, and the start time for the race is secret. Moreover, the actual entry process is also secret (though it will cost you a $1.60), and if you try to get former runners to tell you how to enter they will often straight up lie to you.
The race also has no aid stations, just two unmanned water drops, and the thirteen books stashed throughout the woods that runners will need to locate on each loop. Those unable to finish are played out by a bugler, and the race always presents the one runner deemed most unlikely to even finish the first loop with the mocking number ‘1’.
The Barkley Marathons somehow still manages to find the perfect blend of feel-good, ridiculous, and inspirational in order to create one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a long while.
If anyone does decide to give this documentary a watch please let me know, and if you happen to like this film you might like these docs as well.