We are in the final stretch of making The Barkley Marathons Documentary. This is your chance to support its completion! We were encouraged by enough people to launch a “Finishing Funds” campaign for the film, so here it is! Please consider supporting the documentary and you will be the first to see it! Since we were accepted to be sponsored by Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization, most of your donation is tax-deductible. It’s a win-win!
The Barkley is a whisper, enticing you to unearth its secrets. We focus our lens on answers, only to find ourselves in a thorny briar of cult-like fervor, where truth is malleable and hearsay fuels the foolish. At once drama, tragedy, and comedy, we are inspired by those who face their demons, enter the deep woods of Tennessee, and refuse to turn back. Immersed in a real-life southern gothic tale, we capture spectacular failures and mythic successes. Archival and present-day footage meld with historic folk and southern indie rock. It is absurdist, sardonic, and unusually inspiring.
The Barkley Marathons is the hardest trail race in the world that you’ve never heard of; in its first 25 years only 10 people have finished it. Through the lens of the 2012 race, the documentary follows the story of unlikely athletes pushing themselves to their limits while becoming part of Barkley’s sardonic lore and eccentric community.
In 1977 James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King Jr., escaped from Brushy Mountain State Prison, into the Tennessee wilderness. He was captured 54 hours later less than 8 miles from the prison. Upon hearing of his failed attempt, cocky ultrarunner Lazarus Lake mockingly declared that he could run 100 miles in that same amount of time, and so, The Barkley Marathons race was born.
The Barkley is an ever-changing course designed to be at the absolute limit of human capability. On the unmarked and un-aided course, runners must find their way through treacherous terrain to find hidden books as proof of following the route. If they make it to the end, they will have both climbed and descended over 59,000 feet in under 60 hours.
This story is an intersection of American history, endurance, and the individual search for one’s true potential.