The Finishers: The Barkley Marathons
Alexis Berg and Aurélien Delfosse
It is a race like no other: There is no website to take entries; participants are selected from those who find a way to submit written applications and a $1.60 entry fee; only around 40 people are chosen to run, with condolences from the race director. The course, based in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee, takes place amid unforgiving landscapes and harsh vegetation, often in horrendous conditions with poor visibility. Runners must complete five 20-mile loops – those who manage to complete only three laps are deemed to have achieved the ‘fun run’ – with a total elevation climb equal to two ascents of Mount Everest. Since 1986, only 15 people have ever finished. This exceptional publication celebrates their unbelievable achievements.
Until relatively recently, the event was known only by true insiders, but with the increasing popularity of trail running and the race’s inaccessibility to anyone except the participants and a handful of media, it has attained mythical status.
Thanks to ultrarunning photographer Alexis Berg and L’Équipe journalist Aurélien Delfosse, we now have a record of these superhumans – many of whom are unknown in sporting circles – who have completed the race. Crisscrossing the United States to meet each finisher, Berg and Delfosse travelled from New Hampshire to Oregon via New Mexico, Colorado, California and Utah, capturing stunning photographs and in-depth interviews with the finishers. These stories inspire awe, respect and reflection at the limit of the human spirit.
Alexis Berg is one of the world’s premier sports journalists. Specializing in long-distance events, often in hard-to-reach locations, particularly in the mountains, Berg has captured some of the world’s most challenging races and extraordinary humans. His passion for the Barkley Marathons, for which he has also produced a film with his friend Aurélien Delfosse, arose from the unique circumstances of the race’s founder, landscape and participants. Since 2013 Aurélien Delfosse has been a journalist for L’Équipe, one of the world’s leading newspapers devoted to sports. He has also produced multimedia narratives and documentaries.