The Barkley Marathons is a notoriously tough, ultra distance race which only 15 people have ever completed since it was first staged in 1986. No Woman had ever completed it.
Last Women Standing is a film by Summit Fever Media following Inov-8 ambassador and ultra-running record holder Nicky Spinks as she takes on one of the world’s most notorious and secretive sporting events.
The 100+ mile race takes place in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee and requires the competitors to navigate 5 laps, each involving around 10,000ft of brutally steep, obstacle-laden, muddy mountain ascent through thick woodland and vicious, spiky undergrowth that shreds both clothing and skin. The park surrounds Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, a now derelict maximum-security prison. The impenetrable surroundings have accounted for several failed jail breaks.
The film gives an insight into Nicky’s build up, from the unique application process to the hours before the race where her preparation is made more difficult because runners don’t know the exact time the race will start. Competitors are told of a 12 hour window during which race organiser “Lazarus Lake” will blow a conch – that signifies one hour until start time. Competitors then have 60 hours to complete the 5 laps, ripping out pages from books en-route as proof that they have visited the correct checkpoints. Asked by the film crew if he thinks this will be the year that a woman completes the race Laz replies with a chuckle “No!”
Frozen Head is notorious for its bad weather but the race begins in hot conditions before nightfall sees the temperatures plummet and the runners battling against wind, rain and snow. As other runners drop out (signified by the sound of a bugle) Nicky teams up with fellow female ultra-runner and Barkley veteran Stephanie Case from Canada and the race “virgin and veteran” work together in an attempt to become the first women to complete the grueling challenge. Will they be successful or will the bugle sound for them?
You can watch a trailer of the film here: