Shorts: Blue Ridge Briefs

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One Runner Finishes the Barkley Marathons

Every spring a small group of distance runners ready to endure extreme physical punishment head to the backcountry of Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park for the Barkley Marathons. The bizarre underground race has been held in the rugged terrain of northeast Tennessee’s Cumberland Mountains for the past 30 years, and to date only 14 runners have completed the poorly marked 100-mile course that climbs approximately 60,000 feet. In April, though, Salt Lake City-based Jared Campbell made history and secured his place as one of ultrarunning’s toughest competitors when he became the first person to complete the race three times, working his way through the Barkley’s five 20-mile laps in 59 hours, 30 minutes.

Navigation and elevation are hardly the only challenges at the Barkley. Quirky race director Gary Cantrell makes things difficult for runners in many ways, providing no aid stations on the course and making racers find books along the course to tear out pages to prove completion of each lap. Cantrell even keeps runners guessing on the race start time, blowing a conch shell within a 12-hour window to signify that it’s time to run. Despite the weird aspects of this self-branded “fun run,” a small crop of curious runners shows up every year to give it a shot. This year’s Barkley had 40 runners at the start.

The Barkley had no finishers in 2015, but this year, Campbell, who also finished in 2012 and 2014, was able to keep the required 12-hour-per-lap pace, despite some exhausted legs. He told Runner’s World, “I really couldn’t go downhill the last 20 hours.”

Ray’s Relay for the Parkway

Ray’s Weather meteorologist Ray Russell is running the entire 469-mile length of the Blue Ridge Parkway to celebrate the National Park Service centennial and to raise awareness for the scenic ribbon connecting Shenandoah and the Smokies. Join him for a few miles this month. He’s aiming for 20 miles a day as he heads south. He hopes the endeavor will raise awareness and support for the underfunded Blue Ridge Parkway and its partners, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Learn more at

Nonprofit Gives Bikes to Kids with Disabilities

Props to the folks at REACHcycles, a nonprofit based in Richmond, Va., that provides therapeutic tricycles to children and veterans with disabilities. At a mid-April event at Richmond’s ARCpark, the organization gave 18 children specially modified bikes in an effort to get them pedaling just like their peers. REACHcycles was started by James Howard, a retired Army captain who became a quadriplegic after a swimming accident. After receiving one of the modified tricyles, Howard wanted to get others riding. “The first bike you get is something you’ll always remember, and a lot of these kids were told they’d never ride a bike,” Howard told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Heart Transplant Recipient Attempting A.T. Thru-Hike

When Bill Spence started hiking the Appalachian Trail earlier this spring, it was to honor the donor of his new heart. Two years ago, the 62 year old from Carpentersville, Ill., received a new heart after having multiple heart attacks and three pacemakers. Feeling grateful for his new lease on life, Spence is now on his way to hiking all 2,189 miles of the A.T. He told a Chicago-based CBS new station: “Basically I’ve tried to die five times and I keep getting thrown back into the pond and I believe it’s for a reason and I think this is my reason.”

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