After no one finished in the inaugural 1986 Barkley, the gauntlet was officially thrown. Was the three-race lap possible for any human being? Determined to find out, sixteen runners including five Marines under the command of Sgt. Stone showed up in Frozen Head to test their mettle on April 11th, 1987. Instead, the course tested them…and found the wanting.

“Crickets”
Gary Cantrell

Unfortunately, Gary didn’t write the race summary in 1987 and I can’t find an electronic copy of Fred Pilon’s report in UltraRunning (though it is quoted in Frozen Ed’s book). So, we’re left with a whole lotta not much.

Barker (Runner) Results & Reports

Well, no one finished again. Sad. All loop finish times and names are from Ed Furtaw’s book, Tales from Out There. Following Ed’s style, woman runners are underlined, repeat runners are indicated by how many Barkley’s they’ve started (including this one), and numbers at left do not indicate place or bib numbers–just the count of runners:

Victim L1 L2 L3 Other
1. Fred Pilon (2) 7:22 14:30 * DNS
2. Tom Possert 7:22 14:30 * DNS
3. Gary Cantrell (2) ? DNS
4. Mac Williamson ?
5. Linda Sledge ?
6. Webb Sledge ?
7. Marine Sgt. Stone ?
8. Marine #2 ?
9. Marine #3 ?
10. Marine #4 ?
11. Marine #5 ?
12. Marine #6 ?
13.+ ??? ?
16 Starters 3/16 0/2 * 0/0 NA

(*) Indicates that racers were probably not fully on the intended course, the second year where this was a problem. Would they fix in in 1988? Only one way to find out!

None of the Marines finished even one loop, but according to Frozen Ed they were kind enough to carry some antlers around for Linda.

Changes in 1987
  • Same or similar course (50 miles, 3 loops)
  • Still no finishers
  • 50 cents entry up from 25 cents (100% inflation!)
  • 16 starters vs. 12 in 1986
  • Marines!

1987 Barkley Report Selected Details

UltraRunning article by Fred Pilon (June 6, 1987)

[Next Year] Gary will change the course, find some more hills, discover more undiscovered trails.

Related Barkley Background

Ultra Running History – “Barkley Marathons: The Early Years

Cool background on the race and Gary, including some years before the Barkleys.

Possert and Pilon completed the first 16.7-mile loop in 7 hours. They headed out for loop 2, wondering if they could follow the trail once it became dark. Possert went on ahead once Pilon knew he couldn’t keep up. Halfway through the loop during the afternoon, before the most difficult New River section, Possert stopped, rested, ate, and slept until Pilon caught up. He asked, “Do you plan to go through Hell again?” They both declined, knowing that no one would make it through that section twice.

The entry fee quoted here is 50 cents, or roughly a penny per mile.

Input & More

If you know of any more information about the 1987 Barkley, including who ran it or what they thought of it, let me know. And as always, if you don’t get some Barkley term or reference, check out the Quick Reference guide.

Peace.