In the Spell of the Barkley: Unravelling the Mystery of the World’s Toughest Ultramarathon

Bloomsbury Sport. Jan. 2024. 208p. ISBN 9781399411202. pap. $24. SPORTS
Dutch journalist Panhuysen is an experienced ultrarunner, someone who participates in a foot race that’s longer than a marathon (26.2 miles) and often involves challenging terrain. His book takes readers on his personal journey of competing in ultramarathons around the world; eight of the 14 chapters focus on this. But he pays special attention to the Barkley, held yearly in Morgan County, TN. This race is a 100-mile course that 40 invited participants are given 60 hours to complete. Many have equated it with going up and down Mount Everest twice. Panhuysen has entered the race several times, and he says the Barkley beat him every time. Only about 20 people have completed it since the race began in the 1980s. His book includes fascinating details about the founder of this race, Gary Cantrell, a.k.a. Lazarus Lake, and what compelled him to organize it. Readers should know that this book is a history, not an ultramarathon training guide.
VERDICT For fans of extreme sports and books about why some people push themselves physically and mentally to compete in them.
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