3 Leadership Lessons From ‘The Race That Eats It’s Young’
This past weekend was momentous
It was the 30th running of the Barkley Marathons
(yes, that is an ‘s’ at the end of marathon)
at Frozen Head State Park in Wartburg, Tennessee.
Since it began in 1986, over 1,000 have entered the Barkley 15 have successfully finished.
Fun facts about the Barkley
Race distance: 100 miles (really more like 120 miles)
Fun Run Distance: 60 miles (3 loops, more like 65 miles)
Course: 5, 20-mile unmarked loops through Frozen Head State Park
(really more like 5, 26-mile unmarked loops).
Runners run the first loop clockwise and then alternate counterclockwise and clockwise for the remaining four
Elevation: 56,000 feet
(that’s the equivalent of going up and down Everest twice)
Time to complete: 60 hours
(after the starting cigarette is lit, the clock never stops)
Event date: Varies, but usually around the last weekend in March
Application: Email the race director on a certain day of the year.
Challenge: find out who the race director is and what day to email him/her
Entrance fee: $1.60, a license plate from your home state and a compelling answer to the essay question, “Why I should be allowed to run the Barkley’
(Barkley founder Lazarus Lake)
Official Website: None
Starting Time: One hour after the conch shell is blown
Course Map: The course changes each year. There is one master map available the day before the race. You have to transfer the information yourself
Course Highlights: Pillars of Doom, Rat Jaw, Testicle Spectacle, Bad Thing- just to name a few
Proof of Completing each loop: There are no computer chips. Upon finishing a loop runners must present pages from between
9-11 books dropped at various points during the course and present them to the race director
Odds of Being Accepted: @ 200 enter, @35 are accepted, plus 1 sacrificial virgin determined by the race director
(being the sacrificial virgin is your best chance of getting in)
What happens if/when you drop out: Each Barkley dropout is treated to a rendition of TAPS blown on a Boy Scout bugle by a volunteer
(Another one bites the dust)
The genius behind the Barkley
Gary Cantrell (aka Lazarus Lake) and Raw Dog Hand. The race is loosely based on the prison escape of James Earl Ray from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary
Barkley Marathon Movie (on Netflix)
Official Barkley Marathon movie trailer
And now, here are 3 things learned about leadership from the Barkley Marathons
- Flexibility is more important than planning. Everyone trains hard for the Barkley. They run a lot of miles and run up a lot of hills. But flexibility to ever changing conditions, the ability to adapt in real time and awareness about your surroundings are the differentiators that divide those that succeed and those that don’t (also blisters)
- Teams are more effective when they can self select members. With one master map at the Barkley, ‘virgins’ do their best to. team up with more experienced runners to run the course. The most successful teams are those whose members decide how they can work together and articulate as a group the ‘rules of the team’ so that each member can work toward a personal and the stated goal (finishing the race). Read also ‘Group Study’ from the NY Times Magazine- 2/28/16
- A sense of humor is critical. Gary Cantrell (aka Lazarus Lake) co- founder of the Barkley has been called a lot of things: crazy, sadistic, a dangerous man, but almost everyone agrees that he has a great sense of humor. It is what keeps folks returning year after year. After all, you have to have a sense of humor to equate the $1.60 entry fee as the funding for your ‘retirement plan’. Leaders with a sense of humor make the difficult times easier and the impossible times manageable.
A glimpse into Lazarus
‘You can’t accomplish anything without the possibility of failure’
‘Some of the failures are spectacular…and really funny’
‘We give people the opportunity to find out something about themselves’
Great leaders give their teams the opportunity to play
‘at the edge of impossibility’
Great leaders guide teams toward what’s possible
(Lazarus Lake and the starting field)
I’d love to hear if these ideas were helpful.
Drop a line and let me know
Until next month…
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