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Canadian ultrarunner falls short of 129-year-old record

Matt Shepard wasn't able to break the Canadian six-day record which has stood since 1891

Photo by: Instagram/go_shep

Ultrarunner Matt Shepard of Valleyview, Alta., embarked on a six-day running challenge on Canada Day, and although he ran 551.2K in that time, he was unable to break the Canadian record that has stood since — wait for it —1891. The 129-year-old record was set by David Bennett, who ran 870K in six days in New York all those years ago. Ahead of his run, Shepard told CTV News that he hoped to run 1,000K before his six days were up, but he fell short of that goal and the record as well. Shepard, a member of the Personal Peak team in Alberta, ran with teammates Keeley Milne (who covered 427K in six days) and Derek Yip (who ran 322K) in what was dubbed the 6 Days in the North challenge.

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That’s a wrap! Shep did not reach his goal this time, but in true Shep form, this experience has simply redoubled his commitment to achieve it. The race may be over, but the dream will never die. A feeling world record holder Zach Bitter certainly agrees with. When we caught up with him last night, he reminded us that it took him 5 years to reach a goal he thought was in his grasp on day one. But he did eventually achieve it. His secret was enjoying the process. For if you enjoy the training, the event, the sport, there is simply no such thing as failures. And when the day finally comes, the attainment is all the sweeter for the striving. Our last minute dark horse racers for the event came in with little targeted preparation and thus limited expectations. What they have achieved has been remarkable! Keeley has blown us away with over 400kms. Surpassing her previous personal best distance by over 300 km. She has even hinted there will be more 6-day races in her future. She’s caught the bug! Derek has put in solid distances each and every day. He continues to move well after surpassing his previous personal best and hitting his goal of 200miles! And he has done so with a smile every step of the way. We could not be more proud of the achievements of every one of these athletes. Each one has chosen to keep going. Every day, they chose to step back onto the track. In the least ideal of conditions. It would have been easy to simply throw in the towel, and save their effort for another day, but when faced with the option to pull out due to unfortunate circumstances, or push through knowing they would not achieve their best, they chose to continue. Congratulations to all of them! #6daysinthenorth @go_shep @keeley16 @d_yipster

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6 Days in the North

Shepard has already had some big results on the ultramarathon scene, and he is better known for his win at the 2019 Outrun Backyard Ultra marathon, which was created by Dave Proctor. Over the course of the 6 Days in the North challenge, Shepard averaged 91.8K per day. When Bennett ran his record, he covered 145K every day. To reach his ultimate goal of 1,000K in the span of six days, Shepard would have needed a daily output of 166.6K.

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Had Shepard made it 1,000K, he would have also set the Canadian record for the distance, which currently stands at seven days, 14 hours, 43 minutes and 37 seconds, set by Trishul Cherns (formerly of Hamilton, now living in New York City, and still racing) in 1987. 

The Personal Peak team posted inspiring words following the completion of his run, writing about American ultrarunner and world record-holder Zach Bitter.”It took [Bitter] five years to reach a goal he thought was in his grasp on Day One. But he did eventually achieve it.” Shepard may have fallen short this time, but he’ll likely be back for another attempt soon. 

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Bennett’s record 

Bennett’s six-day run is by far the longest standing Canadian ultrarunning record, with the next oldest having been run in 1986, according to the Association of Canadian Ultramarathoners record database. In 1993, Michel Careau of Quebec came agonizingly close to beating the record, running 868K, just shy of beating Bennett’s 870K mark. He couldn’t cover those final few kilometres, and so the record still stands today, and it looks like it will for at least a little longer.