intro from laz and durb
did we get the time limit right?
watching the clock run towards the 9:30 cutoff,
and only a handful of people had come thru,
it was a source of concern.
there is a delicate balance in setting cutoffs at BFC.
we don't want them to be impossible for all but the elite,
neither do we want them to be easily achieved.
that last hour before cutoff eased my mind.
there was a growing anxiety
as tired runners came in,
in ever growing numbers,
many of them desperately needing just a few minutes to recover...
and those minutes were not really available.
runners who had been closely pursued by the cutoff
for many miles
had to hurry out,
and continue to run in fear
for another 3 hours.
many others wrestled with the decision.
there was a marathon dangling in front of their face
just 0.7 easy miles away....
the 50k meant turning your back on relief
in favor of many more grueling hours.
i only offered them one thing
when they asked my advice...
if you turn left,
you will regret it for 3 hours.
if you go straight,
you will regret it for 12 months.
maybe it sounds like an easy decision,
sitting at home reading this...
sitting in the dirt,
stinking, sweaty, cut up, exhausted, and in pain;
it is not an easy decision at all.
i saw people swing both ways.
i wonder how they each feel about their decisions today.
i do know that almost every one who chose to go left,
has a croix de barque to carry home.
one face stands out in my mind.
a young guy, with curly hair
(maybe blonde when he started)
sat beside his drop bag,
as the time limit wound down.
he was only a short distance away
and our eyes met several times.
his had a sort of pleading look.
and i wondered what he was hoping for..
words of inspiration?
a release to take the easy road?
(maybe just a bullet in the head?)
i wondered if he would simply wait and let the clock decide.
there was nothing i could do for him.
the decision had to come from his own heart.
i know that i felt a certain pride for him,
when a few minutes before his time ran out,
he hauled himself to his feet,
strapped on his gear,
and headed out towards chimney top.
the final minutes were frantic.
there was no time to think.
the coalfield kids were pushed to fill water bottles as fast as possible,
while the runner could, at best,
grab a couple of potato chips and a slim jim.
the minutes became seconds,
and incoming runners had to sprint madly,
just to get there in time to be punched and head out...
and then the limit passed.
runners were still sprinting in.
some missed the opportunity to continue by only seconds.
some of them were old friends.
it did not matter who they were.
or why they were over.
it was too late.
i heard many rueful tales,
before those narrow misses went on for their marathon.
"i forgot to get a punch and had to go back"
"i waited on a friend at the top of a hill"
"i walked, when i could have run."
"i was going by my own clock, and thought i had 30 seconds left."
they were sad stories.
but it was too late.
for every man who chose to take the marathon
rather than to race the time limit for 3 more hours,
there were 2
who were heartbroken to lose that opportunity.
so, how did the time limit work out this year?
550 runners were accepted for entry to the BFC
226 of those either withdrew,
or never showed up at all.
of the 324 who answered the starting cigarette;
73 dropped out
132 either chose, or were relegated to the marathon...
and 119 took home a croix de barque.
37% of the starters.
one of them was ben.
ben came last year.
he missed the cutoff,
and went home with a marathon finish.
i know he was very disappointed.
ben happens to live next door.
he was among the first to enter for this year.
ben has run ultras before
he always finishes.
he ran other ultras this year,
and he always finished.
i saw him many times
running down the roads around home.
frequently he was headed toward,
or returning from
the direction of lynch hill road...
the best hill in our area.
he told me many times
that he was not going to be a marathon finisher this year.
about a minute before the cutoff,
i was punching the bibs of a line of runners.
when i reached for the last bib in the line,
soiled, wrinkled, bent, and frayed,
i glanced up at the owner as i do with each one
(to ask if he had a flashlight and water).
i recognized that face,
through the dirt, and the sweat, and the blood.
it was ben.
he looked exhausted....
but he had a smile that split his head wide open
and his eyes were shining.
his 12 months of regret had but 3 hours left.
it made up for much of the sorrow
over those i had to disappoint.
i knew that redemption was possible.
it would just not be easy,
and it would not come soon.
as david horton said;
"that for which we work for the hardest, we appreciate the most."
the time limit, it seems,
is as close as we could have gotten to perfect.
About the Barkley Fall Classic
The Barkley Fall Classic is designed to give the runner a taste of what the Barkley Marathons is all about.
It contains all the elements; beautiful trails thru the rugged Brushy Mountains, surprising new elements to the course every year, with the course map not revealed until the night before the race, numerous hard climbs and descents (including some of the signature hills that have made the Barkley a thing of legend), and a very personal challenge to face down the demons that wait for us at our very limits of endurance.
The BFC is a 50 kilometer race, with a ridiculous amount of climb and descent (with the attendant reward of numerous scenic vistas.) The course is designed to challenge the runner mentally, as well as physically. GPS is NOT ALLOWED, and those choosing to use it run the risk of lifetime ban. Course markings only exist at major turns, leaving the runner to rely on their confidence that they have not made a wrong turn, or missed a right one. Long sections of very runnable trail follow on the heels of strength-sapping sections of hills... requiring the successful BFC runner to run, when every fiber of their being cries out for taking things slow to recover. The most devastating climbs hit at the runner's weakest moments. Everything is arranged to play on the doubts and weaknesses that exist in all of us. The BFC'er must not only beat the course to finish, but they must conquer their own darkest fears....
As a final challenge, there is a 22.1 mile cutoff of nine and a half hours. Those who reach that point within the time limit are presented with a terrible choice. They can, with a word, choose to end the suffering and run an easy downhill grade for another 7 tenths of a mile, to record a marathon finish.... or, they can strike out into another 9 miles of brutal climbs and descents in an attempt to complete the 50k. Unlike other races with "drop-down" choices, those who choose to continue can no longer log a marathon. At the BFC it is all or nothing.
At the BFC, success is not guaranteed. It might even be considered unlikely. Fully a third of the aspiring entrants will come up with some reason to not be at the line when the starting cigarette is lit. (and who can blame them? at the BFC your very best is not good enough. It takes something a little more than that). More than half of those who have the guts to toe the line will not finish the 50k. The Barkley Fall Classic is not for everyone. If you are only looking to impress your friends, there are a lot of better 50k's to choose from. You should pick one where you are sure to finish, if you don't screw up. If you are looking for a chance to find that something extra inside yourself... that something that you do not know for certain is there... the BFC is for you.
Male and Female winners get guaranteed slots in the Big Barkley in the spring. (A lot of others may discover that they really do not even want to appy.)
Post race food. As you finish, or are finished, cross the finish line, or report to the finish area, and you will receive a ticket to use at the Cattlemen's Association booth for a sandwich, chips, and drink.
In addition to the wonderful steak sandwiches, they have graciously agreed to offer a veggie burger (although it's really tough for beef people to do this... they say they'll do it for you, but no other events).
Surely there will be a few course changes, and if it rains a lot, the course will change a lot with it.
Shirts, and other items could change a bit too.
We'll continue to make every effort to reach a balance of outstanding value while allowing us the opportunity to present large sums of money to local High Schools, and worthy civic groups.
Hotels in Wartburg: Scenic River Inn 915 Main St. 423-346-5733. Very few rooms.
Frozen Head State Park Camping:
Big Cove – located at the Yellow Gate. Reserve on-line or through the FHSP office. Fills quickly; but oftentimes campers will share if they have space.
Flat Fork Group Camping: just up the road from the turn off to Big Cove; there are 8 sites that hold up to 15 people each. This area is first-come, first-served.
Wartburg area: The American Legion in Wartburg 202 S. Kingston St, is offering sites for camping either behind their building (restrooms and showers available), or other places in Wartburg. To reserve, call Bill Podewils at 423-628-5635. Mr. Podewils only asks that you make a donation to the American Legion.
Flat Forks Road: Very near Frozen Head State Park. Mr. Brian Young has RESIDENTIAL property located on a side road off from Flat Forks Road. For info and reservations, his # is 423-223-7844. He has room for approx. 15 tent sites. His charge is a donation to the Wartburg Fire Dept. for each camp site.
Liberty: close to Wartburg. Bathrooms on site. 423-346-6848. Talk to Janice.
Bed & Breakfasts or Cabins:
Raiford Cabin – call Bill Podewils for info. 423-628-5635
Two Rivers B&B: 885 Genesis Rd, Lancing TN. 423-965-4464 – 15 minutes from Wartburg. www.betweentworiversbedandbreakfast.com
Cabins in Sunbright: 618 Coon Hollow Rd, Sunbright, TN. 423-628-6293
The Alexander-Perrigo House: two rooms available. www.spiritofredhill.com
Grey Gables Bed/Breakfast: http://www.rugbytn.com/
Grey Gables has 10 bedrooms available – 8 with private baths rates range from $95 to $145
Rugby area: 20 minutes north of Wartburg: www.historicrugby.org
1880 Newbury House
Schedule of Events: packet pick up; drop bags; parking; start info
The Schedule of Events is going to be a work in progress. We are excited about the many possibilities that are presenting themselves as we head into our fourth year.
You'll be given plenty of notice as to where to pick up your packets, where to park, where the start/finish is, and so on.
We can tell you that you will still receive 13hrs 20mins to finish the 50k, and that the aforementioned cut-offs will be in place.
BFC gives back to Morgan County and FHSP
Something good comes out of something bad
Local time: 9:40 PM
Thanks to you, we have made some very significant donations to the Morgan County community: Though 2016, $30,000 to Wartburg High School, and Coalfield High School, to use for their Athletic budget.
All proceeds from the dinner and breakfast go to the American Legion of Morgan County.
The Cattleman's Association uses the proceeds from the Steak Sandwiches served at the finish area for their Agriculture Scholarship Fund. A big portion of your entry fees go to Frozen Head State Park. Donations are also made to the Morgan County Rescue Squad, and the Petros Fire Department. Morgan County thanks you, and so do we.