Barkley Fall Classic Tips

I’ve been asked by a number of people for advice on the Barkley Fall Classic. Well, I’ve never run the BFC, so some of this could be wrong, but here’s my best effort.

  1. Expect it to be just like one of those western ultras: vast, open landscapes where you see other runners and upcoming terrain from miles away. The vegetation really isn’t very thick at all. And fog is never a problem.
    Clear sight lines, as far as the eye can see
    It’s just a nice, refreshing mist, that’s all

    The trail is clearly right there. Can’t you see it?
  2. If you encounter a blow-down, just wait for the trail crew to come clear it. Those are usually removed immediately and there’s no need to waste valuable energy going over or around it. Sometimes they even provide chairs for you to wait in. Although if you’ve done well with your OCR training (Barkley is basically just like a Tough Mudder) skipping right over them shouldn’t be a problem. The copperheads that like to rest underneath them will probably be particularly impressed.
    Just wait it out

    These are regularly provided along the trail for your convenience
  3. Go as light as possible by not carrying any water. TN is never hot in September, and if you do get thirsty you can just lick the condensation off of your skin that has formed from the humidity. It would also never be cold, windy, or rainy.

    This is early April. September will be breezy and cold. Photo: Josh Patton Designs
  4. There’s also no real need to carry food. The wild boar provide an ample food supply, and are generally quite docile and easy to capture.

    If you don’t have time to grill the boar, it should still be fine. Just don’t leave any extra around for the bears.
  5. Don’t worry about bug spray. Ticks, mosquitoes, and chiggers won’t be able to catch you given the blistering pace you’ll maintain on that terrain. And if they do catch you, it would never be so bad that you would need 4 prescription medications just to be able to sleep at night. That would especially never happen to me at least. Never.

    I’ll do you the decency of not showing you my ankles
  6. Frozen Head is a harsh, barren wasteland. It has no biodiversity, unique geological formations, or other interesting sights. Don’t waste any time trying to find them. After all, you’ll need that time for boar hunting.
  7. Please don’t support the local economy. Morgan County is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of the Cumberland Mountains, and has no use for your tourism dollars. The so called “mom and pop restaurants” like Diddie’s Market, Partner’s Pizza, and Angie’s Restaurant are just opportunistic ventures to prey on runners with their delicious, homegrown food and their hard-working, unbelievably friendly people working at them. Update: Diddie’s Market is no longer in business. Clearly y’all didn’t pay attention! El Patron and The Warden’s Table also offer excellent local fare, and you can get yourself some Brushy Mountain Moonshine while you’re at The Warden’s Table.
    Clearly just a faceless corporation

    I can’t even be sarcastic on this one. These are incredible.
  8. Achievement at one of laz’s races is pretty easy to come by. If you think you’ll be late for a cutoff, don’t worry about it. I’m sure he’ll still let you finish and give you your medal.

    Counting the pages is just a charade. Just do whichever checkpoints you want and finish whenever. You’ll be good. Photo: Josh Patton Designs
  9. Sprint the first mile to assert your authority over the course. Rat Jaw and the later sections will then cower in fear at your strength and not present any sort of problem at all.

    Don’t let Rat Jaw intimidate you. If you’re lucky the briars may even not be cut. Photo: Alexis Berg
  10. Get in, run your race, and get out. laz and everyone else involved in the race are pretty uninteresting and inhospitable, so don’t bother sticking around to enjoy the race’s community, unless of course you want some more boar.

    None of these people have interesting stories to tell. None. And look how unfriendly they all are.

In all seriousness, the Barkley Fall Classic is a “normal” ultra. Approach it as you would other races: keep your hydration, nutrition, and pacing on point, watch out for copperheads, etc.  Keep yourself ahead of the cutoffs, but do make sure you have something in reserve for unforeseen obstacles and tough climbs near the end.

And please, please do support the local businesses. The small, tight-knit, and incredibly welcoming community around Frozen Head is indispensable in ensuring this race (and the main Barkley) can continue. These races are also the community’s only real exposure to running at all, so everyone there is truly an ambassador for the sport.

14 thoughts on “Barkley Fall Classic Tips

  • 2017-09-15 at 3:27 AM

    Sarcasm, humor and reality!! Many thx John!! Take care!!

  • 2017-09-15 at 9:41 AM

    Before I read this I was thinking, I bet he doesn’t even mention Partner’s Pizza. That thought popped up for no good reason, like most things that enter my mind. And low and behold Partner’s Pizza was in the post. Well done sir!

    • 2017-09-15 at 10:35 AM

      I have to admit, I made a last minute edit before posting and accidentally deleted the reference to Diddie’s, Partner’s, and Angie’s. I only discovered and corrected my horrible error a few hours later.

  • 2017-09-15 at 4:30 PM

    John, very interesting reading and although I am long past my running years, I still enjoy meeting those who do and find out where they are from, and listen to their stories. Nice meeting a lot of runners today at the American Legion Building in Wartburg, TN. Great folks.

    • 2017-09-16 at 6:24 PM

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it and that’s great that you were able to get out there and meet runners at the BFC! My mom was out there somewhere too, like you not running but helping out and enjoying the community.

  • 2017-09-23 at 10:46 PM

    My wounds are mostly healed from last weekend… I find your advice slightly askew. Great race and great community around it. Loved the experience.

    • 2017-09-23 at 11:11 PM

      Haha, the rat bites heal! They might leave some small scars, though. Glad you enjoyed it! I need to actually get out there for that one myself one day (but probably to help out rather than race).

  • 2017-09-25 at 10:19 AM

    That’s our plan next year I think. Just go watch/volunteer. Probably race it again in 2019. There’s a really great atmosphere at the event and it was nice to get a small taste of Frozen Head.


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