For the first time ever, 7 runners are on final loop of the Barkley Marathons and one is a woman – photos show just how savage it is

Man trail running on Dolomites high mountain
We don't always know what's happening at the gnarly ultra running event, but we do know that a record has been broken (Image credit: piola666 / Getty Images)

For the first time in nearly 40 years of the bizarre Barkley Marathons, seven fearsome runners have entered the final loop of the gnarly course, and one of them is making the bid to be the first female runner to complete the race.

The ultra marathon is famously shrouded in secrecy, so most of what we do know comes from following the entertaining feed of Keith Dunn on social media, which serves as the event's only official news source. At around 4 a.m. local time, nearly 48 hours into the race, Dunn announced that France's Sebastien Raichon had entered the fifth loop with just three minutes to spare, setting a new record for the event. He is joined by Damien Hall, John Kelly, Greig Hamilton, Jared Campbell, Ihor Verys and Jasmin Paris. If Paris completes her final lap, she will be the first female runner in history to complete the course. Until now, the best women's achievement remains that of Sue Johnston, who managed 66 miles all the way back in 2001.

The race typically begins with 35 hand-selected runners, but yesterday we reported that two were disqualified for littering at the starting line. The course involves making five loops of a 20-mile circuit in Frozen Head State Parks, and Dunn shared photos, which you can view below, that reveal runners battling through extremely tough, overgrown terrain.

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With 54,200 feet of accumulated vert, the race is considered to be one of the hardest in the world, so it's no surprise that much of Dunn's reporting details who has dropped out – Albert Herrero Casas, Tomo Ihara and last year's winner Aurélien Sanchez among them.

The event was devised in 1986 and extended to 100 miles in 1989, however it is so unforgiving that it took until 1995 for any runner to complete it, with the UK's Mark Williams coming in just under the 60-hour cutoff. This year's race kicked off just after 5 a.m. on Wednesday, which means we'll know if anyone has made it to the end and received the grand prize of absolutely nothing by dinner time tonight. 

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.