Karel Sabbe first Belgian to finish 'toughest ultra run in the world'

Karel Sabbe first Belgian to finish 'toughest ultra run in the world'
The three runners who completed the run. Credit: Twitter/ Frank Decorte

Dentist-cum-runner Karel Sabbe was one of three people to finish the 'Barkley Marathons', known as the toughest ultra run in the world, in the early hours of Friday, making him the first Belgian to do so.

The Barkley Marathon is an annual ultramarathon trail race taking place in Morgan County, Tennessee in the United States. As part of the race, participants have to cover 160 kilometres (five loops of 32 kilometres each) including around 20,000 altimeters (more than twice Mount Everest), all within 60 hours. When they set off, participants are only given a map and a compass.

Runners can complete three laps (a total of 97 km), which is known as the "fun run." If multiple runners start a fifth loop, they are sent off in alternating directions.

For the first time in the 36-year history of the race, four runners started the final loop, but one of them, a British person named Damian Hall, had to abandon the race.

The last person who managed to finish the ultra run was in 2017, making this year's addition of three people to the winner's list very unusual. Aside from Sabbe, Frenchman Aurélien Sanchez and American John Kelly also finished the race.

However, it was very close for the 34-year-old Belgian, as he finished in 59 hours, 53 minutes and 33 seconds, leaving barely six and a half minutes over the deadline, making it particularly thrilling.

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It was the third time the dentist from Anzegem in West Flanders had taken part in the 'Barkley Marathons'. On a previous occassion he pulled out after hallucinations that let to him talking to a dustbin. This time he was also reportedly hallucinating a lot.

A second Belgian who had started the ultra run, 28-year-old Thomas Van Woensel, did not make it to the finish line, alongside 36 other runners who had started the ultimate run on Tuesday.

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