Barkley or the Olympic Trials?

AJW asks which is more difficult, finishing the Barkley Marathons or qualifying for the United States Olympic Marathon Trials.

By on February 28, 2012 | Comments

AJWs TaproomGreetings iRunFar Nation! I know we’ve been mixing things up a bit here lately with last week’s column coming a day early on Thursday and now, what the heck, a Tuesday column! But, such is the life of a diuretic ultrawriter. :)

Last month, I queried my “friends” on Facebook about what they thought was more difficult, finishing the Barkley Marathons or qualifying for the United States Olympic Marathon Trials (USMOT). Not surprisingly, like many things in our sport, the responses were bifurcated and no clear winner emerged. So, as with many things in my life, I was left to decide for myself and here is the deal:

  • Barkley requires ridiculous endurance and a certain amount of luck.
  • USOMT requires ridiculous speed and a certain amount of luck.
  • Barkley means you have to battle day and night with the elements and a certain degree of inflexibility on the part of the race organizers.
  • USOMT requires that you battle with the race organizers and deal with the elements they give you.
  • Barkley says it’s my way or the highway.
  • USOMT says, well, this is the highway!
  • Barkley punishes the capricious and rewards the patient.
  • USOMT punishes the patient and rewards the capricious.
  • Barkley says you need to understand that the start time is variable.
  • USOMT says you need to understand that the finishing time is variable.
  • Finish Barkley and you’re done for a year.
  • Finish USOMT and you’re done for a week.

In the end, of course, the question is as silly as the asker as we all know the comparison is ridiculous. That said, how great is it to know that a discussion like this can even take place? When all is said and done, testing ourselves against ourselves is what keeps us coming back for more. It makes us stronger and more complete. As bizarre and out there as the Barkley is there are some who have made a lifetime of it. And, as pure and simple as the marathon is there are some who have yet to master it. It is that mystery, that hope of finding some deep something within us, that extra thing that makes us go out for that “fifth loop” or that final “10K” that keeps us going after it day after day.

Until Friday!

Bottoms up!

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Yuengling Traditional LagerThis week’s beer of the week is easy. Since Bryon has enjoyed a few of these this past weekend we must, with this Tuesday edition of the Taproom, pay homage to America”s Oldest Brewery, D.G. Yuengling and Son in Pottsville, PA. Their Traditional Lager has been an East Coast staple since 1829 and never fails as a go-to beer.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)
I’d like to frame this (civil) conversation by reiterating that this comparison is ridiculous. It’s not our intention to instigate a fracas about which goal is more difficult, but to flesh out the challenges inherent for accomplishing these two incredible… and incredibly different goals. With that in mind, please share where you can add positive insight while taking the time to be respectful of others.

  • Which challenge do you enjoy more: walking the razor’s edge of effort or enduring days of unspeakably harsh environmental conditions?
  • Whether you’ve started the Barkley or made an attempt to qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon (successful or not on either goal), we’d love to hear what there the biggest challenges you faced in trying to reach your goal as well as the rewards you got out of making the attempt.

[Editor’s Note: I’ve got to thank AJW for this bonus Taprooom piece as I’m down for the count. – Bryon]

Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.