Karel Sabbe achieves an incredible feat of endurance


Only 15 athletes have managed to finish the Barkley Marathons, the ultra-endurance event considered the most difficult in the world, in under 60 hours. Karel Sabbe, a Belgian who already holds several world records, is now a member of this very restricted global group.

The Barkley is an ultra-selective wild course through the forest of Frozen Head State Park, a national park in Tennessee, in the heart of the United States. It is an orienteering race of almost 200 kilometres run completely independently without GPS or mobile phones on hostile terrain, with more than 18,000 metres of positive altitude difference (the equivalent of two times Mount Everest). The goal is to finish this race in under 60 hours.

Only 15 athletes had managed to finish this mythical race within the allotted time since the first event in 1986. This makes Karel Sabbe's achievement exceptional. However, he came very close to failing, completing the course in 59 hours, 53 minutes and 33 seconds.

So it was third time lucky for the 34-year-old from Ghent. A true adventurer, this dentist from Anzegem (West Flanders) holds the world record for the 4,300 kilometre Pacific Crest Trail in western North America. The Appalachian Trail is also on his list of achievements, a 3,500-kilometre race he completed in a record time of 41 days, 7 hours and 39 minutes.

Other Belgians also hold records in ultra-endurance disciplines, such as Ivo Steyaert and Merijn Geerts and Arnaud de Meester.