I was thrilled when I saw TZ's Facebook post about the Barkley Book Fair. I ran the day run last time he put it on, summer of 2010, and I knew I wanted to run the night run. But 2011 went by with no Barkley, and I never did get around to buying a headlamp, and by the time this year's race came around, I had chickened out all the way.
See, Barkley is a special run. You have to know the right people to even know about the race, let alone run it. It's strictly the cool kids who show up to this one - well, and they let me tag along, so they're not all bad. Anyway, there's a day run and a night run. Both runs have the same basic idea - you run around on Turkey Mountain, looking for books. Every time you find a book, you tear out the page that corresponds to your bib number, taking your torn-out page with you. When you get to the finish, you hand off your pages to a page-counter, then you drink a beer.
The day run's course is marked, and this year's was pretty simple. I seem to remember having more trouble finding books last time.
The night run doesn't have course markings - instead, you get a map and some handwritten clues. Clues like, "The troll left a mess!" or, "Death of many bikers."
The books themselves are one of my favorite things about the run. Ken takes pains to provide books with appropriate titles. Books like Fatal Terrain, The Long Walk and Pathfinder meet their doom at Barkley. I think of it sort of like a Viking's death for a book. Most books don't go out like these - maybe we should actually put their carcasses on some sort of funereal pyre at the end of the next Barkley. Hard to say, though - it's pretty hot for a fire. Oh! I know, maybe LAST year's books should be immolated NEXT year. Or something. I don't know, I'm spitballing.
I ran the day run, which was a lot of fun. Hot and fast, but not too fast. I ran with Chris and Rafael, both of whom I've run with before, and Rachel, a newish face - it's hard to say who's new and who I just haven't met yet, so I don't want to call anybody new. There were others whose names I can't recall - the girl in Vibrams, I think was the one Rafael called Hardcore Girl. It seems like I'm missing one or two. Anyway, it was fun. Rafael fell down, claiming a twisted ankle, but our jeers and taunts motivated him to get back up to speed - just kidding. We all stopped to walk with him and nobody ran on without him. It's really not that kind of race. He walked a bit, but quickly found that he could run after all - the big faker just wanted a breather so he could smoke us all at the finish. It's that kind of race.
I had a beer at the finish and hung out for a bit, sweaty and happy, and people I hadn't seen in a while started showing up. Delighted to see Wilma and Channing and John and Kathy and Troy and Roman and I don't even remember who else, I drank another beer and before I could say, "I'm not that kind of girl," Brian had loaned me a headlamp and I was in for the night run.
I can't tell you much about the night run. I'm afraid it might violate the code. I'm not exactly sure what the code is, so I have to be extra careful so I don't get banned from future Barkleys. I can tell you it was fun. It was scary in places, but since there is no whining allowed and whiners aren't allowed to participate, it was actually pretty lovely. I think that's all I'm allowed to say. I'll have to check with TZ.
We crossed the finish line, without all the books, without all of our original crew, way past midnight.
We ended the night at IHOP, where I devoured chicken fried steak and eggs until exhaustion crept in. I drove home half dreaming already and went directly to the shower. I watched dirty water sluice between my toes on its way to the drain. After running trails, watching all the dirt run down the shower drain is my favorite part.
I put in a Rita Hayworth movie, flopped on the futon and was asleep before the opening credits finished rolling. Loki woke me up this morning, meowing in my face, demanding water from the bathroom faucet immediately or else. I dutifully complied, then padded back to the futon where I slept until noon with no further disturbances or demands.
It's a pretty good life, you know?
Also! Not one single tick. Was I doing it wrong?
Also! I bought a headlamp today.