MORGAN COUNTY, Tenn. — Three finishers finished a world-famous test of endurance through Frozen Head State Park that most runners never complete.
The Barkley Marathons previously only saw 15 people successfully complete its loops. It consists of five 20-mile laps through the state park, and in order to complete a lap, runners must rip out pages of a book that matches their bib number. A crudely marked map serves as a runner's only reference for where the checkpoints are, and they usually involve off-trail trekking.
As of Thursday, three other people joined that list. Among them was John Kelly, 38, and a Morgan County native who successfully finished the Barkley in 2017. He competed again this year and once again — he crossed the finish line.
"It's a huge personal achievement. This race has always meant a lot to me, growing up here, right next to these mountains and kind of, you know, this point — I feel like I get to showcase my home to these runners that are coming here all over the world," he said.
The race was inspired by a notorious prison escape from nearby Brushy Mountain prison. James Earl Ray spent almost 54 hours on the run before his capture eight miles from the prison.