Review: ‘The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young’

In the documentary film, The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young, we follow contestants who attempt to take on the toughest best known secret marathons. Here’s a not so tough review of the documentary.

The Barkley Marathon first became a mockery of James Earl Ray’s prison escape in Tennessee, which only lasted fifty-five hours before he was caught eight and a half miles away from the prison. Lazarus Lake co-founded the marathon and devised this very tough and some say “evil” marathon, which has only seen ten finishers in twenty-five years. The marathon consists of five twenty mile loops through some of the same path that Ray’s escape was on. Every year, forty participants go through an examination before the race, in order to try to take on the devastating race. Some participants at least want to finish one loop, some want to finish a couple loops, some want to finish the fun run and some hope to not only finish the race but also break the record. The_Barkley_Marathons_3

You may ask “How can it be secret if there’s a documentary about it?” Well, it was a very secret marathon race back within the first few years of the event but it was so tough, that the participants began to talk about it and the rest of the world caught wind and wanted to test their luck with the marathon.

In the documentary, co-founder Lazarus Lake seems a bit cuckoo but while watching the documentary, you realize that whoever created the race, would have to be a bit of an evil genius. Lake has ran and walk all over the state of Tennessee and knows the lands very well. This all makes him pretty suitable to invent such a marathon. Each year, the participants apply for $1.60 and then pay an additional fee which has changed over the years. Sometimes participants would pay in white shirts, sometimes in socks and in this particular race covered in the documentary, participants paid in flannel shirts.

During the film, we follow a number of the participants as they attempt to go through five treacherous loops consisting of twenty miles each. Some quit before finishing one loop, some quit after a couple of loops and just a very small few, attempt to complete the whole race, while having a small amount of food and water, no GPS  and not one wink of sleep. You can see how hard the marathon is just by watching it. Some participants ended up with scratches, some bloodied, some blistered and all extremely exhausted. The_Barkley_Marathons_5

This was a pretty interesting documentary. It explained a lot of its history. You learned a lot about Lazarus Lake and a lot about the heart of the participants. I definitely think anybody who does marathons for fun or sport, would love this film. It may even interest them enough to make them want to be crazy enough to try this marathon. I thought that it was pretty funny that Lazarus Lake revealed that he has not even completed the race. It makes you kind of feel like maybe he just like to be a cruel person and have these people go through hell. Because of how crazy and unique the marathon and documentary are, I give The Barkley Marathon: The Race That Eats Its Young, 7 fridges out of 10.

You can see the documentary on Video On Demand and various digital platforms (including iTunes) Dec.8.