Levi Verbauwhede

Flemish dentist completes world’s toughest ultra-run

A dentist from Waregem in West Flanders was among just three competitors to complete the Barkley Marathons, a race known as the world’s toughest ultra-run. 34-year-old Karel Sabbe crossed the finishing line in the hours of Friday morning and become the first ever Belgian to complete the Barkley Marathons. 

The Barkley Marathons is an ultramarathon trail race that is held every year in Morgan County in the American state of Tennessee. Those taking part have to complete a total of 5 32-kilometre laps. 

The 160km race includes around 20,000 altimeters. The course must be completed withing 60 hours. Those taking part in the ultramarathon are given only a map and a compass when they set off. 

Runners can choose to complete either the three-lap (97km) “fun run” or take the ultimate challenge of the 5-lap 160km run.

Karel Sabbe was one of 4 runners to start the 5th lap. However, one of these, a British runner, dropped out and 3 runners, including the West Fleming made it across the finishing line.

2023 is an exceptional year in that three people completed all 5 laps within the allotted time of 60 hours. Previously no one had completed all 5 laps since 2017. Karel Sabbe did so with only 6 minutes and 33 seconds to spare.


Top stories