DURANGO, Colo. (March 17, 2023) – Tailwind Nutrition athlete John Kelly was the second to finish the infamous Barkley Marathons this year, finishing the 100 mile course in 58 hours 42 minutes and 23 seconds, less than 20 minutes after Aurélien Sanchez who finished in 58 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds. The only other finisher this year was Belgium’s Karel Sabbe, another Tailwind athlete, who finished just six and a half minutes before the 60-hour cut off. Sabbe now officially holds the designation of the slowest finish, a title many wish they could one day hold.
The Barkley Marathons course consists of an unmarked 20-mile loop riddled with steep climbs and dense forest, not to mention darkness and sleep deprivation. Runners must rely on a map and compass to navigate through the wilderness to complete five loops before the 60-hour cutoff, with the goal of finishing what is known as, “The race that eats its young.”
This is Kelly’s second Barkley Marathons finish, the first was in 2017. He is one of only three people who have ever finished the race twice. There has not been another finisher since Kelly completed the five loops in 2017. It was also Kelly’s sixth time starting, having raced in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2022 and this year. For Tailwind athlete Sabbe, this was his third attempt, having started in 2019 and 2022 as well. In 2022 he made it onto the fourth loop but got turned around, ending up in the neighboring town of Petros and escorted back to the race camp by the county Sheriff.
“For me this race was at its most basic a fun adventure with friends in the woods,” said Kelly. “But deeper down it was a test of mental resilience, to see if I could still push through the challenges without the motivation of trying to become a first-time finisher. Tailwind helped ensure I could focus on that test, providing over 30 bottles of simple, nothing to think about, fuel.”
The Barkley Marathons is an ultramarathon trail race created by Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell and held annually in Frozen Head State Park Tennessee each year. On race day, Tuesday, March 14, as with every year, the official start time is kept a secret until one hour before when the conch shell is blown. The race officially starts when Laz lights his cigarette. To be a Barkley Marathons finisher, athletes must complete five total loops, 20-miles each, for a total of 100 miles in under 60 hours. Before this year, of over 1,000 people who have started the race, only 15 people have ever finished.
Each year “Laz” creates a theme for the race (one year it was Love and Puppies). In regard to this years’ theme, Howie Stern, official photographer said, “Why the appeal of photographing Barkley every year? It’s that the worst-case scenario is the starting point…”. Coincidentally, that was the theme for Barkley Marathons this year.
To see how the race unfolded this year, check out the Barkley Twitter thread, with tweets from official tweet master, Keith Dunn. Dunn said, “Barkley is family and Fool’s Weekend is the annual reunion of that family. It’s the one time each year I get to see old friends who I love dearly and make new friends and I cannot begin to imagine not being there.”
The elusive and infamous Barkley Marathons is limited to 40 participants each year and potential runners must apply and be accepted to participate. The entry fee is $1.60, and runners must also provide certain items to the race directly, such as a license plate from their home state or country.
For more information on Tailwind Nutrition and to keep up with Tailwind Nutrition athletes, please visit: www.tailwindnutrition.com, Tailwind’s blog and follow their adventures on Instagram (@tailwindnutrition) and Facebook.
About Tailwind Nutrition
Since 2012, Tailwind Nutrition has been manufacturing all-natural endurance nutrition products that are free of GMOs, dairy, soy, and gluten, are easy to digest, and support an athlete’s fueling and recovery needs during exercise. Owned, operated, and manufactured in Durango, CO, Tailwind Nutrition’s specially formulated drink mixes help athletes perform and compete at their highest level without the worry of food allergies or sensitivities. Tailwind is all you need, all day. Really. For more information visit tailwindnutrition.com