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Oella Ave. in Fog, Oella, Maryland

Oella Ave. in Fog, Oella, Maryland
Oella Ave. in Fog, Oella, Maryland

Church and Puddle, Oella, Maryland

Church and Puddle, Oella, Maryland
Church and Puddle, Oella, Maryland

Mill Race Trail with Snow, Oella, Maryland

Mill Race Trail with Snow, Oella, Maryland
Mill Race Trail with Snow, Oella, Maryland

Alan Abbs

Alan Abbs, 42, Red Bluff, CA. Profession: Air Pollution Control Officer. Number of Barkley starts: 2 previous. Why are you running the Barkley? To go farther than previous starts. Your predicted finish results: Greater than 3 laps. Actual results: D.N.F. (Did Not Finish) at Pighead Creek, loop 4, @ 32 + hours.

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About Geoffrey

Baltimore County

www.geoffreybakerphotography.com Where does photojournalism end and fine art begin? At intent. 

Oella, Maryland

Historic Oella, Maryland.

Ellicott City, Maryland

Ellicott City, Maryland.

Ultrarunning

Is athletic performance art? Does moving with silent speed across vast distance and landscape etch energy in its wake? The ultrarunner in nature.

‘Out There’ At The Barkley: Portraits From The Edge Of Endurance

“If you’re going to face a real challenge, it has to be a REAL challenge. You can’t accomplish anything without the possibility of failure. For some people, just to get back to camp alive is all they want in the world.” – Lazarus Lake

In the fringe world of ultra endurance sports, there is an outlier: The Barkley.

The Barkley is the world’s toughest race you’ve never heard of. With 59,100 feet of climb and decent over 100 miles, it’s considered the most difficult endurance event on the planet. In its 25-year history, only twelve men, the same amount of men who have walked on the moon, have actually been able to finish the race. No woman has successfully completed more than sixty miles on the course.

Held near April Fool’s day weekend in the remote Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, the race draws a small cadre of uber athletes and dreamers from around the world.

The race has no website.

It is not on any race calendar.

The entry procedure is a well guarded mystery. Ask a veteran how to enter and you are likely to be sent down a rabbit hole.

The race director lives under an alias.

The cost to enter is $1.60 and a license plate from your home state or country.

The course is five loops around the park, totally unmarked, mostly off trail, with a time limit of sixty hours.

There are no manned aid stations. You must carry everything you need to survive “out there” including a map and compass (no GPS allowed) to navigate the course.

There are no rescues. You must self-extract, however long it takes, and get back to camp.

There is no official race start time. The race begins when the Race Director decides to light his cigarette.

In order to prove you’ve successfully navigated the course, ten books are hidden (in abandoned rattlesnake dens, trees, coal mines) along the route. You must find each book and tear out the page that matches your race number for the loop and successfully bring it back to camp.

The race features such obstacles as the Testicle Spectacle, Danger Dave’s Climbing Wall, Son Of A Bitch Ditch, Rat Jaw, The Bad Thing, and the pièce de résistance: running under the now closed Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary via a subterranean drainage tunnel.

When you fail at the Barkley, and you will fail, you must face the bugler who will play taps at the yellow gate. All in camp will know you gave your very best, but in the end, still failed.

This is the world of The Barkley.

Portraits of the athletes were taken the day before the start, and immediately upon quitting, being tapped out, or in a rare case, finishing.

  • Alan Abbs

    Alan Abbs, 42, Red Bluff, CA. Profession: Air Pollution Control Officer. Number of Barkley starts: 2 previous. Why are you running the Barkley? To go farther than previous starts. Your predicted finish results: Greater than 3 laps. Actual results: D.N.F. (Did Not Finish) at Pighead Creek, loop 4, @ 32 + hours.
  • William (Will the Thrill) Arnold,

    William (Will the Thrill) Arnold, 32, Nashville, TN. Your profession: Teacher. Number of Barkley starts: 0 previous starts (virgin). Why are you running the Barkley? Because it’s there. Your predicted finish results: Fun Run (60 miles/3 laps). Actual results: R.T.C. (Refused To Continue) at Testicle Spectacle, loop 2.
  • Stuart Gleman

    Stuart Gleman, 67, Franklin, NC. Your profession: Retired Physicist. Number of Barkley starts: 15. Why are you running the Barkley?: I might not get another chance to be here at the park I love, with the people I love, and in the race I love. Your predicted finish results: If I am very lucky I will guide one or two virgins around a complete loop in 18 or 20 hours. If I am alone, I will likely drop at about half a loop. If I start to bleed, I will be lucky to make it out alive, and the Barkley runners can have my books. Actual results:. R.T.C. (Refused To Continue) at Raw Dog Falls, loop 1.
  • James Adams

    James Adams, 32, London, UK. Your profession: Statistician. Number of Barkley starts: 0. Why are you running the Barkley?: To get beaten by something. Your predicted finish results: To get my money’s worth. Actual results: R.T.C. (Refused To Continue) @ 12 + hours into the race.
  • Hiram Rogers

    Hiram Rogers, 54, Knoxville, TN. Your profession: Geologist. Number of Barkley starts: 7. Why are you running the Barkley? Frozen Head is a great place to run. Your predicted finish results: A great day in the mountains. Actual results: D.N.F. (Did Not Finish) at Phillips Creek, loop 2 @ 12 + hours into the race.
  • Dusty Hardman

    Dusty Hardman, 43, Punta Gorda, FL. Profession: Unemployed, former ranch caretaker. Number of Barkley starts: 0 Why are you running the Barkley? I am running the Barkley because I love adventure, love toeing the line with the greats of ultrarunning and because I have chronic illnesses that people think should keep me (and them) from participating in amazing things. I love proving them wrong over and over again. I have adrenal insufficiency (do not produce cortisol and cannot regulate sodium and potassium without medication) like JFK and hypothyroid both are controlled with medicine.
  • Carl Laniak

    Carl Laniak, 30, Arnoldsville, GA. Your profession: Machinist. Number of Barkley starts: 4. Why are you running the Barkley?: I don’t know. Your predicted finish results: Success. Actual results: R.T.C. (Refused To Continue) at Indian Knob, loop 2.
  • Brett Maune

    Brett Maune, 33, Washington, Missouri. Your profession: Physicist. Number of Barkley starts: 1. Why are you running the Barkley? It is fun and memorable. Your predicted finish results: 1st. Actual results: 1st place in 52:03:08, a new course record by over three hours.
  • Beverley Anderson-Abbs

    Beverley Anderson-Abbs, 47, Red Bluff, CA. Your profession: Environmental Scientist. Number of Barkley starts: This will be my first. Why are you running the Barkley? To test myself and see what I am capable of in this venue. Your predicted finish results: Hopefully further than any other woman has gone. Actual results: R.T.C. (Refused To Continue) @ 34 + hours into the race.
  • Wouter Hamelinck

    Wouter Hamelinck, 29, Merelbeke, Belgium. Your profession: Statistician. Number of Barkley starts: 1 (2010) Why are you running the Barkley?: Want to know how impossible it really is. Your predicted finish results: No prediction, hoping for a fun run (60 miles). Actual results: R.T.C. (Refused To Continue) @ 24 + hours into the race.

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