Recommendations to Get You Motivated
This post was inspired by two documentaries – Inspired to Ride and The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats its Young – both of which are great illustrations of ultra endurance and the human spirit. Both are available for streaming on Netflix.
Inspired to Ride
Inspired to Ride follows a handful of cyclists, 45 to be exact, as they race – 4,233 miles from Oregon to West Virginia – unsupported in the inaugural year of The Trans Am Bike Race. It’s the antithesis to events like Tour de France and Race Across America. There are no teams, no support vehicles, no special jerseys and not a dime in prize money.
As they battle lack of sleep, injuries and spirited competition, the riders take the viewers along on this invigorating road trip. While the viewer gets to meet and know a little about 10 – 12 of the riders, the focal points are Mike Hall and Juliana Buhring, the respective male and female winners of the inaugural World Cycle Race in 2012. In that event, riders pedal their way over 18,000 miles around the world in an easterly or westerly direction without going back on themselves and passing through two antipodal points en route.
The Barkley Marathons
The Barkley Marathons is an ultra-marathon consisting of 100 miles (160 km) run and a 60 miles (97 km) ‘fun run’ held in Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, Tennessee. The Barkley is limited to 40 runners and usually fills up quickly the day registration opens. Requirements and times to submit an entry application are a closely guarded secret, with no details advertised publicly. Potential entrants must complete an essay on “Why I Should be Allowed to Run in the Barkley,” pay a $1.60 entry fee – you read that right, just $1.60 – and complete other requirements subject to change. If accepted, an entrant receives a ‘letter of condolence.’ Ha. Good stuff!
The course itself, which has changed distance, route, and elevation many times since its inaugural run in 1986, currently consists of a 20-mile (32 km) unmarked loop with no aid stations except water at two points along the route and the runner’s parked car at the beginning of the loop. Runners of the 100-mile version run this loop five times, running loops two and four in darkness, taking a counterclockwise direction for loops three and four, followed by each runner alternating direction on loop five, after the first-placed runner’s choice. Runners of the 60-mile fun run only complete three circuits of the loop.
With 54,200 feet (16,500 m) of accumulated vertical climb, the 100-mile run is considered to be one of the more challenging ultramarathons held in the United States, if not the world. In many years, none of the contestants completes the entire course.
The current record, which was set in the year the documentary was made, is 52:03:08 by Brett Maune.
The point of watching either of these documentaries? To be inspired to try an event that challenges your perceived boundaries. As someone who has run a marathon, a handful of half marathons, and competed in a couple of multi-day (~100 miles a day) bike riding events, self discovery only takes place when you dare to venture into unchartered territory.