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Like a Child at the Grownups' Table

The "Barkley Marathons" is an extraordinarily difficult 100 mile trail run, five 20-mile laps through the rugged terrain of the Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee. In 2013 two people — Nick Hollon and Travis Wildeboer — succeeded in finishing it within the 60 hour time limit. They were only the 13th and 14th to do so since the event began in 1986. Race Director Gary Cantrell aka "Lazarus Lake" wrote a poem about it:

The conditions this year were impossible,
yet there were finishers.
Nick Hollon, and Travis Wildeboer,
each making their third attempt,
made a lie of human limitation...

at a price.

To be at the yellow gate after a Barkley finish
must be experienced to be understood.
I felt like a child at the grownups table...
listening in...
13 and 14, collapsed in their chairs, bundled in blankets,
talking with the others who had been where they had been;
in the rarified air of loops 4 and 5.
talking of experiences I can only imagine
with a combination of awe and shuddering fear

their tales are harrowing ones.
of numbing fatigue, desperate climbs and heart stopping descents,
of constant fear and uncertainty
of a time limit that is always just behind them,
when a single error could bring down everything they had worked for.

I felt, at once,
both humbled...

and elevated...

at this glimpse into the thoughts of those
who have been where no man can go
and done what no man can do.
it is hard to explain,
but seeing the barkley done makes it seem more impossible.
not less.

(cf. Tales from Out There (2010-05-11), Big Stick (2010-05-18), Hardness Scales (2011-01-05), ...) - ^z - 2013-11-09

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