I’ve been asked by a number of people for advice on the Barkley Fall Classic. Well, I’ve never run the BFC, so some of this could be wrong, but here’s my best effort.
- Expect it to be just like one of those western ultras: vast, open landscapes where you see other runners and upcoming terrain from miles away. The vegetation really isn’t very thick at all. And fog is never a problem.
- If you encounter a blow-down, just wait for the trail crew to come clear it. Those are usually removed immediately and there’s no need to waste valuable energy going over or around it. Sometimes they even provide chairs for you to wait in. Although if you’ve done well with your OCR training (Barkley is basically just like a Tough Mudder) skipping right over them shouldn’t be a problem. The copperheads that like to rest underneath them will probably be particularly impressed.
- Go as light as possible by not carrying any water. TN is never hot in September, and if you do get thirsty you can just lick the condensation off of your skin that has formed from the humidity. It would also never be cold, windy, or rainy.
- There’s also no real need to carry food. The wild boar provide an ample food supply, and are generally quite docile and easy to capture.
- Don’t worry about bug spray. Ticks, mosquitoes, and chiggers won’t be able to catch you given the blistering pace you’ll maintain on that terrain. And if they do catch you, it would never be so bad that you would need 4 prescription medications just to be able to sleep at night. That would especially never happen to me at least. Never.
- Frozen Head is a harsh, barren wasteland. It has no biodiversity, unique geological formations, or other interesting sights. Don’t waste any time trying to find them. After all, you’ll need that time for boar hunting.
- Please don’t support the local economy. Morgan County is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of the Cumberland Mountains, and has no use for your tourism dollars. The so called “mom and pop restaurants” like Diddie’s Market, Partner’s Pizza, and Angie’s Restaurant are just opportunistic ventures to prey on runners with their delicious, homegrown food and their hard-working, unbelievably friendly people working at them. Update: Diddie’s Market is no longer in business. Clearly y’all didn’t pay attention! El Patron and The Warden’s Table also offer excellent local fare, and you can get yourself some Brushy Mountain Moonshine while you’re at The Warden’s Table.
- Achievement at one of laz’s races is pretty easy to come by. If you think you’ll be late for a cutoff, don’t worry about it. I’m sure he’ll still let you finish and give you your medal.
- Sprint the first mile to assert your authority over the course. Rat Jaw and the later sections will then cower in fear at your strength and not present any sort of problem at all.
- Get in, run your race, and get out. laz and everyone else involved in the race are pretty uninteresting and inhospitable, so don’t bother sticking around to enjoy the race’s community, unless of course you want some more boar.
In all seriousness, the Barkley Fall Classic is a “normal” ultra. Approach it as you would other races: keep your hydration, nutrition, and pacing on point, watch out for copperheads, etc. Keep yourself ahead of the cutoffs, but do make sure you have something in reserve for unforeseen obstacles and tough climbs near the end.
And please, please do support the local businesses. The small, tight-knit, and incredibly welcoming community around Frozen Head is indispensable in ensuring this race (and the main Barkley) can continue. These races are also the community’s only real exposure to running at all, so everyone there is truly an ambassador for the sport.