Barkley Marathons Post Race Q&A with John Kelly and Jasmin Paris
Does the Barkley Marathons live up to its name as the toughest race on the planet?
Jasmin – ‘I can only speak from my own race experience, but based on that, and the historical number of finishers, I’d say it must be amongst the toughest. It’s a combination for so many things, the ascent, the terrain, the navigation and the need to keep on top of all that constantly, for 55-60 hours.’
John – ‘Any race can be made arbitrarily tough. The aim of Barkley is to be as tough and unpredictable as possible while still possible, and it has done that amazingly well. It not only aims for about a 1% finish rate, there’s no way of predicting who those 1% will be.’
What were the most challenging aspects of the race for you?
John – ‘There’s always a different most challenging aspect – part of what leads to the unpredictability. This year I got much colder than expected in overnight rain on loop two, and I lost a lot of time in camp trying to get my core temperate back up.’
Jasmin – ‘For me the navigation was the hardest aspect, as I was new to the race (a Barkley ‘virgin’) and only ran with ‘veterans’ for a part of loop 1. In addition, the weather on loop 2 (at night) was torrential rain, which meant that the footing, navigation (extra streams) and keeping warm were became significantly more challenging.’
How did you train and prepare for this year’s race?
Jasmin – ‘I’m coached by Damian Hall, and we worked on preparing me for the many steep climbs and rough terrain in the more focused block of preparation as Barkley approached. To maximise my ascent on the longer runs, I included blocks of hill reps. On one stormy morning in February, I accumulated 5500m climbing the same hill 22 times (the dog thought I’d gone mad!). My family also prepared a couple of mini–Barkley Marathons for me, complete with magazines to tear pages from, thick forest and brambles.’
John – ‘My training this time wasn’t much different than for any other big challenge. I focus on staying as fit, fast, and strong as possible, and then tune that fitness a bit leading up to the event. For Barkley that includes some long days with a lot of elevation gain (and loss).’
With hindsight, would you have done anything differently prior to and during the race?
John – ‘I would have opted for a hot shower to try to quickly warm up and get back out after loop two.’
Jasmin – ‘It would have been great to have more experience of forest navigation, if I’d had time to travel a bit to orienteering events for example, although the best training would probably be done at night.’
Was there any kit you wish you’d had or had more of?
Jasmin – ‘I broke a running pole on loop 1, and again on loop 2, so I was glad I had a couple of spares in camp! I think a lot of people got too cold overnight on loop 2, but I was ok, and actually still had a spare long-sleeved top in my bag that I could have put on. The weather in the park seems to be very changeable, so I set off prepared for all seasons.’
John – ‘No, at this point I know pretty well what I need out there. I probably just should have used some of my warmer gear sooner.’
How did you fuel during the race?
John – ‘I relied on a combination of Supernatural Fuel and Tailwind, with Supernatural providing nearly all of my non-liquid fuel (most of it the Oats, Banana, and Maple Syrup blend).’
Jasmin – ‘On the course I ate homemade flapjack, chocolate bars, nuts, and sandwiches. For the ‘inter-loopal’ periods I had a variety of things prepared including porridge, pasta, pizza, potatoes, rice pudding, baked beans and Supernatural Fuel pouches.’
What will you take away from the Barkley Marathons 2022 apart from the scratches?
Jasmin – ‘The memory of a great adventure shared with like-minded people. I understand what they mean by the ‘Barkley Family’ now.’
John – ‘Some great memories out in the mountains with incredible people.’
Will you be back for another crack at it?
John – ‘I believe so.’
Jasmin – ‘I hope so!’
A massive thank you to Jasmin and John for taking the time to talk to us. If you would like to follow their activity and challenges you can find them both on Twitter: Jasmin – https://twitter.com/JasminKParis ; John – https://twitter.com/RndmForestRunnr and we post often about our Ambassadors on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
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