By: Trevor Jeffery
There are some people who do physical challenges for the fun of it, and some people who participate in physical challenges for the accomplishment. Then, there are some people who do physical challenges because of self-loathing, mental lapse or aptitude for enduring pain. The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young is a documentary about all of these folks.
In Tennessee, a foot race is held every year: the Barkley Marathon. It’s five loops of about 20 miles, ending up over 100 miles long. The marathon involves climbing and descending 12,000 feet of incline several times, and lasts as long as you can last – but no longer than 60 hours. More of a speed-hike than a run, marathoners go through thorny patches, across standing stones and even underneath a federal prison. Over the 25+ years the marathon has been held, the amount of runners to complete all five loops has been just shy of 20.
This doc isn’t going to grab you at first. A lot of great visuals and the perfect mountain music soundtrack for the setting aside, marathon creator Gary Cantrell does enough back patting to turn the tone slightly askew. But, he’s an acquired taste and provides the documentary with a magnetic and humourous character to look toward between blistering feet and weeping runners. His unique brand of unsettling charm ends up being the glue for both the viewers of the doc and the runners of the marathon.
The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young is a feel-good underdog story, where each and every contestant is an underdog. The runners, though they may be competing with each other, still form a bond over the grueling trial that is two and a half days of running (most of these people don’t even stop to sleep, and if they do it’s for an hour). It really is heartwarming to see these determined individuals push aside their begging desire to quit, and carry on with the race.
The documentary characterizes the runners well; you’ll be grieving the ones who call it quits, while cheering on the others who keep running through the pain. Their loss is everyone’s loss, and as for the rest who push as far as they can, their accomplishment is shared by both the viewers and the dropout runners.
The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young warmly invites you to look into an exclusive community of encouragement and accomplishment, and shares with you the pain and the joy.
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Trevor Jeffery: @TrevorSJeffery