“The Event Is Considered Extreme Even By Those Who Specialize In Extremity”

Only one supermarathon has been inspired by a prison break by MLK assassin James Earl Ray.

A brief history of the bizarre and creepy origins of the annual Barkley Marathons in Tennessee, from The Immortal Horizon,” Leslie Jamison’s new Believer account of the grueling 100-mile race:

“The first race was a prison break. On June 10, 1977, James Earl Ray, the man who shot Martin Luther King Jr., escaped from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary and fled across the briar-bearded hills of northern Tennessee. Fifty-four hours later he was found. He’d gone about eight miles. Some might hear this and wonder how he managed to squander his escape. One man heard this and thought: I need to see that terrain!

Over twenty years later, that man, the man in the trench coat—Gary Cantrell by birth, self-dubbed Lazarus Lake—has turned this terrain into the stage for a legendary ritual: the Barkley Marathons, held yearly (traditionally on Lazarus Friday or April Fool’s Day) outside Wartburg, Tennessee. Lake (known as Laz) calls it ‘The Race That Eats Its Young.’ The runners’ bibs say something different each year:SUFFERING WITHOUT A POINT; NOT ALL PAIN IS GAIN. Only eight men have ever finished. The event is considered extreme even by those who specialize in extremity.” (Thanks Longform.)


Local runners attempt the Barkley:

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