When the 60-hour Barkley Marathons came to a close, Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee witnessed an incredible feat of human endurance. An incredible feat, accomplished by five racers this year, including the first-ever female finisher, cemented the edition’s position in history.

Among the intrepid participants who embarked on this epic ultramarathon journey, only five emerged victorious after battling relentless challenges on each successive loop. Ihor Verys, a Ukrainian-Canadian newcomer, made a remarkable debut by clinching the top spot, crossing the finish line in an impressive 58 hours, 44 minutes, and 59 seconds. Following closely behind was John Kelly, securing his third finish in seven attempts with a time of 59 hours, 15 minutes, and 38 seconds. Utah’s Jared Campbell claimed the third position, completing the race in 59 hours, 30 minutes, and 32 seconds, while Greig Hamilton from New Zealand finished fourth, clocking in at 59 hours, 38 minutes, and 42 seconds.

(left to right): Greig Hamilton, Jared Campbell, Ihor Verys, Jasmin Paris, and John Kelly. Photo © Instagram(howiesternphoto)

However, it was Jasmin Paris who captured the spotlight, rewriting the Barkley Marathons history books. She became the first woman to conquer all five loops of the challenging course. Paris, a 40-year-old British runner, crossed the finish line as the fifth and final finisher, achieving this feat in 59 hours, 58 minutes, and 21 seconds. Her extraordinary accomplishment broke records, with her finish being the closest in event history, just under two minutes ahead of the 60-hour cut-off. Prior to this, Paris had already made waves by becoming the first woman to complete four loops, defying the expectations set by race founder Lazarus Lake.

 

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This year’s Barkley Marathons shattered previous records, with five finishers surpassing the previous record of three. Notably, seven runners embarked on the fifth loop, another unprecedented milestone. Paris’s finish, with a mere one minute and 39 seconds to spare, exemplified the sheer determination and resilience required to conquer this formidable challenge, surpassing the previous closest finish set by Karel Sabbe in 2023.

Photo © Instagram(howiesternphoto)

Before this year’s event, which is renowned for its unconventional rules and rituals—such as a ban on GPS watches and a scavenger hunt element involving hidden book pages—only 17 individuals had ever completed the full unmarked course within the 60-hour timeframe. The course’s rugged terrain, with approximately 13,000 feet of elevation gain per loop, has been described as a “Kafka-esque hell” by ultrarunner Damian Hall.

Notably, last year’s winner, Aurélien Sanchez, opted to withdraw early on the third loop, underscoring the immense challenge posed by the Barkley Marathons. Only 22 of the 40 participants made it to the start of the second loop this year, compared to 30 in 2023.

As the race unfolded, Kelly and Verys emerged as frontrunners, completing the fourth loop in 45 hours and 46 minutes. This left them with just over 14 hours to conquer the final loop before the 60-hour deadline. Their lead was closely followed by a group of five other runners who also finished their fourth loop in time, marking the first instance of seven runners completing four loops.

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Among the compelling narratives of this year’s event was the journey of France’s Sébastien Raichon, the record-breaking winner of the Chartreuse Terminorium. Although he made it to the start of the fourth loop just three minutes before the 48-hour cut-off, Raichon ultimately did not finish the fifth loop, highlighting the unpredictable and unforgiving nature of the Barkley Marathons.

A few brave people dared to push themselves to the limit in the untamed wilderness of Frozen Head State Park, and those who did will go down in the annals of ultramarathon history as heroes of the 2024 Barkley Marathons.