Friday, September 14, 2018

Even His Little Brother Is A Horrible Criminal

We have talked a little bit about The Barkley Marathons before.  Tomorrow marks the "other" race in the Frozen Head State Park in rural Tennessee.  Called the Barkley Fall Classic, the race is only about a fourth of its older, more criminal brother.

Both of these races were conceived by Lazarus Lake (Gary Cantrell) after noting that assassin James Earl Ray only managed to get 8 miles in 55 hours from Brushy Mountain Penitentiary when he escaped following his conviction for killing Martin Luther King Jr.  Cantrell and his friend commented that they could get at least 100 miles in that time frame.  Ray was found huddled and covered in mud and was overjoyed to be recaptured.  The desolate mountainous landcape surrounding the prison posed a more formidable escape deterrent than the waters off Alcatraz.

That's when Gary Cantrell's Dr. Jekyl became his Mr. Hyde, Lazarus Lake.  He made up a trail ultramarathon that is recognized as one of the most difficult races in the world.  In its more than 30 years, only 15  16 people have managed to finish the race.  And it is even more sadistic than that indicates.  Some of the most fit and tough people you have ever met wouldn't stand a chance at the Barkley.

The rules of the race are extraordinary enough, but that only scratches the surface of the eccentricity of the whole thing and the people it attracts.  From the entry requirements shrouded in mystery, to the pre-race dinner of under or overcooked chicken, the mind-boggling items just accumulate.  The start of the race is signaled by Lazarus lighting a cigarette!  Barely a sound...

Just as I am fascinated by mountaineering and Everest, I am attracted to all things Barkley.  But I would never, ever think of undertaking either.  And yet into this world emerged my good friend (on the internet, at least!) Ron Moore, our Erwin Shrodinger Endowed Chair of Advanced Physics.  Ron started out as a brilliant and talented student-athlete under Coach Groves.  He emerged as an accomplished Physicist, family man, and unfortunately, a trail ultramarathoner!  I don't know what happened...

After a stint as the man in charge of the world's most powerful nuclear accelerator, he somehow ended up in Tennessee, not far away from the beast named Barkley.  There is way more involved in this story, but it may take me a long time to ferret it all out.

Ron's goal is to make it into the 40-unlucky souls every year that receive the condolence letter from Lazarus indicating they have been accepted into the big race.  Until then, he has been toiling in many ultras in preparation.

That's where I come in.  I have agreed to lend Ron a hand should he ever get into the Marathons.  I will be a mostly useless member of his crew and sponsor his roughly $2 entry fee and even supply an old PA license plate for "The Wall"  Laz has already built without any congressional approval!  (It's a wall of license plates from the birthplaces of all entrants over the years). I may even haul out Podd 2.0, my RV, so Ron will have a place to await the start of the race and collapse when he is done.

I even managed to supply him with a couple of Nike dri-fit shirts for his Fall Classic race tomorrow.  Let's all wish him luck in the race!

He will need a podiatrist tomorrow.

He is representing all of us.
Podd 2.0 with my modeling partner.

Next Up: An update on Ron's race and just how important dogs are when thinking about the Barkley.

1 comment:

  1. That Penn State Track Alumni tee shirt reminds me of Freddy Kruger's hand coming out through someone's chest. Was that the intent of the design team. Great work, esp. Halloween on the horizon.


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