Beginning Friday evening and Saturday morning, runners in two provinces ran loops for hours in an attempt to win their respective backyard ultras. 12-hour and 100-mile national record-holder Amanda Nelson won the Persistence Backyard Ultra in London, Ont., with 33 yards and just over 221 kilometres.
Concurrently in Okotoks, Alta., Stewart Wyllie was the last person standing at the Outrun Racing Backyard Ultra, with 30 laps and 201 kilometres. Both winners earned a coveted silver ticket: a spot on the Canadian backyard team that will compete at the 2022 World Backyard Championships, satellite edition.
Backyard ultras follow a simple rule: runners start every hour on the hour, and follow a 6.706 km course. Pace doesn’t matter, as long as you finish the loop before the one-hour cutoff and are ready to start the next loop on time.
The race continues until only one runner is left, and the person who ‘assists’ that runner, or who drops out last, plays an important role. Everyone, aside from the winner, completes the race with a DNF (did not finish) result, no matter how many hours or days they run.
Persistence Backyard Ultra was Woodstock, Ont. native Nelson‘s first attempt at this style of race. “Hour after hour became so daunting – it was killing me mentally,” she says. Nelson credits Brian Bondy, the assist (who completed 32 laps and dropped out during lap 33) with forcing her to keep going. “I never knew one could literally have a full-blown argument with oneself,” Nelson adds.
72-hour world record holder Viktoria Brown dropped out of the race on lap 29, expressing her congratulations to Nelson on social media.
St. Albert, Alta. based Wyllie wrote about his win on Instagram. “I was prepared to go for 36 hours, but I was delighted to be done after 30 hours,” Wyllie shared. “I met so many great runners that were encouraging and positive.”
The World Backyard Championship event will occur in October, and the Canadian team will run in B.C. The first satellite World Backyard Championships were held in 2020, with 21 countries competing via live broadcast. Belgium’s Karel Sabbe nabbed the win in 75 yards (laps) and over 502 km and what was (at that time) the longest distance run at a backyard ultra.