They may have stolen my initial title for my race report, but Ariella did a great job and the title worked better here anyway! It also forced me to come up with a title that I think was better for my race report.
“Drown me! Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please. Only please, Brer laz, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”
Raishad came over to my parents’ house to interview me the day after the race. I’m still kind of in rough shape, and he probably caught me between naps, but it was awesome to get to talk to him and tell some of the story to the same news program that I grew up watching.
MORGAN COUNTY, TENN. – On Monday afternoon, John Kelly joined one of the world’s most elite running groups by finishing the 2017 Barkley Marathons. The insane course is a 100 mile race up and down the steep cliffs of Frozen Head State Park in Morgan County.
John Kelly made trail running history on April 3, 2017 by becoming the 15th person to ever complete the Barkley Marathons. The Barkley Marathons in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee is known to the toughest endurance challenge ever with over 160 kilometres of tough terrain, sheer drops and thick forest.
For three years I obsessively chased my white whale through the very Tennessee mountains where I grew up. In 2015 I failed after 3 loops, a harsh introduction to Barkley where I had been doomed by a poor nutrition strategy. In 2016 I failed just after starting the 5th loop, done in by navigational errors that led to sleep deprivation. Those taught me valuables lessons, though, and I came into this year’s race more prepared, with a better mindset, and with the same incredible support from my wife, family, and friends, as well as some outstanding companies (Hammer Nutrition, Ultimate Direction, Every Man Jack, Chopt).
WARTBURG (WATE) – It is a race that is notorious for how many people have not completed. More than 1,000 people have attempted to complete the Barkley Marathons, but on Monday, John Kelly, 32, became the 15th person to complete the race in Frozen Head State Park.
Washington, D.C.’s John Kelly has finished, and won, the 2017 Barkley Marathons in 59:30:53. Gary Robbins did not make the 1:42 p.m. EDT cutoff after 60 hours. With the victory, Kelly is the 15th finisher in the race’s history. Robbins missed the 60-hour cutoff by an agonizing six seconds after touching the yellow gate (the finish) from the opposite direction.
I’m hoping to get to my full race report in the next week, but I wanted to go ahead and get a quick recap and some thoughts out. The past few days have been pretty crazy, and it’s still kind of hard to believe. I owe a huge thank you to my family, awesome crew, and companies that supported me. I needed all of their incredible support and commitment to get me to that gate a 5th time. Having 30 minutes might seem like a nice cushion, but just 8 minutes more per transition, or just 30 seconds more per book, and I would’ve been over.
One of the first questions I normally get asked when people find out I’ve done / am doing the Barkley Marathons, is how I train for something like that. My training has evolved over the years, from 2015 when I had no idea what I was doing and just ran every hill I could find all the time at any time of day no matter the impact to personal life, to this year when I had a very set routine and fit my training around family and job rather than vice versa.
My results have steadily improved since my Boston Qualifier at the 2014 Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, honestly far beyond what I originally thought I would be able to do. In 2016 I became 1 of 16 people to ever make it to the 5th loop at the Barkley Marathons, set a Guinness World Record for fastest marathon dressed as a videogame character, and finished 2nd overall at Ironman Maryland. This year I’ll be returning to Barkley and in triathlon I’ll be making a trip to Kona to race in the Ironman World Championship as part of Team Every Man Jack.
This was my first podcast, actually before 2017 Barkley. And before I figured out how to keep my eyes focused. This was an awesome experience for me and these guys were great. I wouldn’t hesitate to chat with them again at any time.
by Leon Lutz A flicker ignites the end of a cigarette. A deep inhalation precedes a release of smoke into the Tennessee sky. Less than three weeks later, this very gesture will launch 40 people into the wilds of Frozen Head State Park as it begins to emerge from a long winter’s nap.
A Chinese version of this race report translated by Larson Zhang can be viewed here.
I arrived at Frozen Head two days before the race with a great deal of optimism. The weather looked perfect, I had trained well, and I knew that a solid group of veterans would be there including Jared Campbell. I also felt great about course navigation. I could visualize in my head the route to almost every book. The descent to book 2 was a little hazy for me, but I would assuredly still be with a group during that portion on the first loop. Otherwise I felt I could lead or go it alone if necessary, something I was never quite confident enough to do the previous year. I wanted 5 loops, and I felt good about my chances.
Another Barkley Marathons is in the books and the latest chapter has reaffirmed the race’s longstanding reputation of being as hard as any race comes with time running out on all 40 starters before anyone could complete a fourth much less a fifth lap.
I believe this was my first ever running-related interview, and it was pretty hilarious to me at the time that I got into Bloomberg for running. Michael did a great job covering the race in the last year before it exploded in popularity due to the documentary.
None of the 40 runners who attempted to finish the 100-mile Barkley Marathons in the mountains of eastern Tennessee completed the race, the first time since 2007 that the endurance test had no finishers. “The mountains won,” said Gary Cantrell, who created the event in 1986. “I was pleased with the outcome.
In the weeks leading up to the Barkley I eagerly anticipated the start of the race, but at the same time I had not been so nervous about something in years. The Barkley was more than just a race to me; it was personal. I grew up across the street from the course at the bottom of Chimney Top. My family had been on that land next to their namesake Kelly Mountain for 200 years. Those mountains are in my blood, and they were about to get a chance to reclaim some of it. Just as my background gave me enormous motivation, though, it also gave me trepidation. I could handle my own likely failure, but I was the home team and I wanted to represent the community well.