The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young

A racer struggles along a ludicrously difficult course in The Barkley Marathons.

THE BARKLEY MARATHONS: THE RACE THAT EATS ITS YOUNG ( Annika Iltis, Timothy James Kane). 89 minutes. Opens Friday (November 27). Rating: NN

Interested in people who like to push (or punish) themselves by entering a more than 100-mile foot race that’s almost impossible to complete? Wanna watch the eccentric organizers, who call themselves Raw Dog and Lazarus Lake, taunt them as they suffer? Then you’ll love Annika Iltis and Timothy James Kane’s documentary about the Barkley Marathon.

The annual event, held in Tennessee’s forests and mountains, was founded to mark James Earl Ray’s -escape from a prison in the area. He lasted eight hours in the wilderness. Only 35 racers are allowed to participate, and they have 100 hours to complete the course. Over its 30-year existence, fewer than 20 have hit the finish line.

Why do they do it? Beats me, and the film does nothing to clue you in. It revels instead in all the weird entry requirements – finding an entry form in the first place, passing an idiosyncratic entrance test, producing a licence plate from your area, etc – and the racers’ pain, but offers no insight into their motivation.

It’s hard to care when you can’t connect to the characters. Organizer Lake, however, gets tons of screen time to offer smug commentary, every second of which is infuriating.

A sadist’s dream.  

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