Aurélien Sanchez, first Frenchman to win and finish the mythical Barkley

Aurélien Sanchez, first Frenchman to win and finish the mythical Barkley

Aurélien Sanchez during the 2019 edition of the John Cappis 50k.

Aurélien Sanchez became, on Friday March 17, the first French runner not only to win the Barkley but to complete this legendary ultra-endurance event, which takes place in the Brushy Mountains, a small wooded massif in Tennessee (United States), theoretically over 160 kilometers with 20,000 meters of elevation gain and to be covered in less than sixty hours.

Leaving on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, the 32-year-old Toulousain completed the five loops in 58 h 32 min 12 s, just a few minutes before the American John Kelly (58 h 42 min 23 s) and the Belgian Karel Sabbe (59:53:33).

The three men are the only ones finishers of the 2023 edition of the Barkley, which had only fifteen since its creation in 1986, and which had not known one since 2017. “Finished! »simply wrote on his account instagram Friday Aurélien Sanchez. Forty athletes took the start of this 36e editing. Scotland’s Jasmin Paris, the best competitor, finished the fourth loop just after the time limit.

If finishers are so rare, it’s because the race is one of the most difficult in the world for multiple reasons. The distance, initially, supposed to be 160 kilometres, is often closer to 200. The route, then, kept secret until the last moment, changes every year and you have to find it yourself with map and compass. Most of the time, runners have to go off-trail, in wet gorges, steep and cluttered with brush, brambles or tree trunks.

Like in a treasure hunt

As in a treasure hunt, you have to find thirteen books hidden on each loop and tear out the page that corresponds to your bib number to prove your passage. Telephone and GPS are prohibited. In the event of a problem, the competitors are therefore left to fend for themselves. All must also sign the following waiver: “If I’m dumb enough to go for the Barkley, I must be held responsible for all the consequences of that attempt, whether financial, physical, mental or otherwise. »

Selected on file, they must in particular fill out a form with questions of the kind “Explain the positron excess of cosmic rays” Or ” How much butter does it take to cook a pound of liver (with onions)? “.

Successful candidates are informed by a letter in which one can read: You can, if you wish, spend the months between us and April trying in vain to train to cover the greatest possible distance before your inevitable demise. However, since no non-American has completed this race since 1995, it would probably be best to spend this time getting your affairs in order… Update your will, visit friends and family, and adjust everything that needs to be. »

This is one of the reasons why we had to wait for the 10e edition so that someone can finally finish it. Before Aurélien Sanchez, only Anglo-Saxons had succeeded.

The World with AFP

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