New Film Documents Grueling and Secretive Barkley Marathons

For more than 25 years, the Barkley Marathons has taken place in the Tennessee woods. While ultramarathon running caught on in the mainstream, the Barkley race continued to be an underground test of will and fortitude. 

But not anymore. The general public will get a never-before-seen firsthand look at one of the most challenging adventure races in the country. It’s 100 miles of brutal terrain that requires pure grit and probably a fair amount of ignoring your own body. Just 14 people have completed the race in 25 years. 

It’s quirky organizing traditions (it costs $1.60 and a license plate to enter) and the strange historical background (the race is based on the path taken by an escaped fugitive) are all documented in the film The Barkley Marathons: the race that eats its young.

Created by two former camera operators for the television series Mad Men, the film chronicles the 2012 Barkley race where an unusual number of participants actually completed the course. 

In essence, it’s a story about determination and what people are capable of accomplishing if they are willing to put up with temporary pain and suffering. 

“People make it to all different stages of the race—some of them are upset, and some are happy that they’ve gone farther than they’ve ever gone,” Annika Iltis, one of the filmmakers along with Timothy Kane, told Outside Magazine. “You see people do amazing things that they never thought possible.”

The film is now available to rent or buy through iTunes, Amazon or Google Play. Visit for more info. 

Also read this NY Times story about the event from 2013. 

Photo credit: Youtube