The Barkley Marathons happened this past weekend in Frozen Head State Park Tennessee. The race originated after a James Earl Ray escaped Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, and only made it 8 miles through the wilderness in 55 hours, before being found in deteriorated condition. The race director, a colorful personality by the name of Gary Cantrell, was appalled by the scenario, and decided to create a race out of the story, and so was born the Barkley Marathons, a 100 mile race that is actually 5-20 mile circuits through the Tennessee mountains that must be completed in 60 hours, of if you happen to be only a moderate glutton for punishment, you can try the “fun run” a mere 60 miles. In the history of the race, which dates back over 30 years, only 15 people have completed the full distance in the 60 hour time frame.

I first heard about the Barkley Marathons when my husband and I watched the documentary about it on Netflix. But I couldn’t help but draw parallels to motherhood when I heard about this extreme endurance event. Here are 15 ways that the Barkley Marathons are like motherhood.

  1. The start comes at an unknown hour. You get a warning just an hour or so before it starts.
  2. The route changes every year. You never quite know what to expect, and cannot plan for the future based on how things went last time.
  3. Only one person has ever gotten it right on their first try.
  4. Most people who try it think they’re prepared, only to find out how utterly wrong they were.
  5. It takes a vast support team to make it though.
  6. The entry system is quirky and strange, but part of the appeal.
  7. Even the “easy version” is outrageously hard.
  8. It takes serious navigational skills to figure out the course, even on your 2nd, 3rd or even 5th loop because the trail is completely unmarked.
  9. There’s always a “sacrificial lamb”.
  10. The racers aren’t competing against each other, just each trying to finish.
  11. Participants who figure out the tricks often help the newbies.
  12. There is no prize for finishing, just the chance to rest as long as you would like.
  13. Some of the participants hallucinate or pass out from sleep deprivation.
  14. Extreme conditions are present at almost any place on the course, and can take you by surprise at any time.
  15. The goal isn’t winning, or even finishing, it’s being a part of the experience that counts.

The Barkley Marathons is arguably the most challenging endurance event in the world, so it’s no surprise that there are so many similarities to motherhood. At least in motherhood you aren’t disqualified for reaching the finish from the wrong direction and 6 seconds late, in fact, it’s pretty much expected.


 Image via Instagram

Alethea Mshar

Alethea Mshar is a mother of four children; an adult child who passed away of a drug overdose, one typical daughter and two sons who have Down syndrome, one of whom has autism spectrum disorder and complex medical needs. She has written "What Can I Do To Help", a guide to stepping into the gap when someone you know has a child diagnosed with cancer, which is available on Amazon, and is publishing a memoir titled, "Hope Deferred". She can be found on Twitter as leemshar, and blogs for The Mighty HuffPost as Alethea Mshar, as well as her own blog, Ben's Writing Running Mom on She is also on Facebook as Alethea Mshar, The Writing, Running Mom.