Many of you will probably be reading this title asking, ‘who is Bixley?’ and ‘what is Barkley?’
Let me elaborate. Matt Bixley is a rather strange Kiwi chap – you may have seen his name in lights on the infamous Back Country Runner website run by the illustrious and well-sponsored Grant Guise. Matt is also a good man, but I’d never tell him that to his face. He’s also a good man because he’s off to ‘walk’ my nirvana event, The Barkley Marathons.
Somehow, the little man from the arse-end of the world, Dunedin, managed to get a spot in this well-kept secret of a race, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask him a few questions about it before he heads off and completes a few loops before coming back home with his tail between his legs. I’m banking my recent stash win of 10,100 jellybeans on him completing no more than three out of the five loops. As an added incentive, I’ll donate $50 a loop to Mal Law’s charity – so over to you Matt, go earn Mal $250 big ones…
Dan kindly offered to ask me some questions about the Barkley. I tried to explain to Dan that nothing about the Barkley is ever as it seems, no question is ever met with a straight answer. If you’re lucky the lie is obvious, if you’re really lucky you’ll actually be able to decipher some valuable information.
How did you first hear of Barkley?
In all honesty, I don’t know. It was a long time ago. Maybe even before Al Gore invented the internet.
What’s the appeal of it?
Everything about the Barkley is appealing, except maybe going to Tennessee. Actually, why am I going to Tennessee? I can write a long list of places I’d rather go and races that I’d probably enjoy a lot more. But having said that, I’ll enjoy Tennessee and enjoy a different culture, hunt out the local food and drinks. It’ll be fun.
Are you scared?
Scared of what? Scared of letting myself and other people down, Yes. Scared of the Barkley, No. The Barkley is just a weird variation on a 12 Hour Rogaine. The variation being that you have to do the same Rogaine 5 times. If it was summer time then I’d be terrified of the snakes.
Do you really think you will finish?
No idea. So many variables are beyond my or anyone else who starts control, 60 hours is a long time. Things happen, bad things happen. If you asked the question “do I think I can finish”, then the answer is Yes. I’m not flying halfway around the world just to see what all the fuss is about. For some that is enough to go, lining up is enough and is a success.
What’s the one skill you think you have that others don’t?
There isn’t “one” skill that gets you a finish at the Barkley, there are a variety of skill sets and if I were to draw a Venn Diagram and place myself on it I’d be sitting at an intersection occupied by most of the Barkley Alumni. But you want me to name one thing so I shall, A map a compass and the person holding them are a single unit.
Tactically, how are you going to approach the race?
Follow my chosen Vet for loop 1, then go it alone because they are too slow after that. Beyond that, just be efficient. How are you preparing mentally? By not over thinking it.
What are you taking with you? Kit wise?
Ultimate Direction got me into the race and Ultimate Direction will get me through the race. But I’ll be keeping things quite simple, I don’t think I need anything different to a standard New Zealand race. I like carrying bottles and having access to my food without taking the pack off (see above, being efficient).
Are you taking your wife? And if not, what does she say about it all?
Sadly, no. Ann is very supportive and encouraging of the things I do. She’s joining me in Australia on the way home for the Buffalo Stampede Marathon. In all likelihood, she will beat me.
What do you think you will struggle with?
And how are you going to deal with that? Missing my family. I find it very hard to go away and play and leave the family behind and not be able to share the places I’ve been with them. That gets into my head during races. But that probably wasn’t what you were looking for. Stress, Barkley is set up to stress you. I’ll deal with things as they happen. I don’t have a lot of control of some of the bad things that will happen so there is no point in dealing with them until or if they happen.