April 14, 2022 3 min read

Ah…The Barkley Marathons. I think many folks are familiar with this race after watching the popular documentary The Race That Eats Its Young. It is known as one of the hardest events in the world, and I have been eager to find a way into this race…. finally 2022 would be my year!

Is it 100 miles or 125? Is there 30,000 feet of vertical gain, or 60,000? These are questions you may never find an exact answer to!

I’m not sure if there is ever a way to feel fully prepared for an event like this which is purposefully laced in secrecy.

Details from the exact length of the course to the start time are unknown to the runners. Aid and crewing is very minimal. The exact course route is released less than a day before the start, and you’ll be using a map and compass to navigate around it - there are no course markings!

So, how does one prepare for a race where, by all accounts, you really have no idea what you are in for? That was the question I had to answer for myself, and my answer was always this: the best I can. In some sense, you have to gamble on your training and your preparation, and simply see how you go.

After all, it’s not like I was a stranger to hard physical feats.

Throughout the times of questioning my preparation I would remind myself that I did hold the current women’s supported FKTs for both the Long Trail and the ADK 46 High Peaks: so yes, I know how to prepare for hard things! 

I felt that I arrived on the start line this year in the best physical and mental shape I could have been for something that was so unknown to myself. But what I wasn’t prepared for? That you can think you are 100% prepared, and really, you might not be prepared at all. 

The Barkley will expose your weaknesses and with good preparation those will be few and far between. But as I found out this year, they can still add up. And when they do, it costs you! From gear forgotten in camp, to a broken trekking pole, to a poor navigation choice — not one single error would cost me my race, but the sum of them with the group I ran with did mean I would tap out of the event during the second loop.

While it might sound like a lot of failures, I’d be remiss if I didn’t explain that I did have a lot of wins out there too.

I think the theme of the race could even be “I had 99 problems but my shoes weren’t one!”

I loved wearing the MAXX out on the course, but I saw several others with the iROCK and XTRM as well. I’d even say the Ice Hero’s could have a place on the Barkley Course — there might not be a wrong VJ Shoe for this race. 

My navigation skills which I have been honing for the last few years were also really solid! And, my fueling strategy was spot on. I also met some wonderful people and had truly the adventure of a lifetime out there with them for 18 hours!

In the end, my list of takeaways from the race with areas for improvement seems endless. But the one thing that does remain clear is that this is a very special event. I encourage everyone to follow along with the #BM100 hype on twitter next year. You also can follow my training and racing for the rest of the season, on instagram or my website. 

Article Written By:
Alyssa Godesky – Professional Triathlete, Ultrarunner, and Coach @biscaycoaching