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Quarantine Backyard Ultra: mid-race update

After almost 30 hours of racing, there are still plenty of runners competing in the Quarantine Backyard Ultra

Dave Proctor

The spring racing calendar has been completely erased due to COVID-19, but some events have organized virtual runs instead. Although there are more and more virtual races sprouting up as the coronavirus eliminates more events, the most anticipated so far has been the Quarantine Backyard Ultra. This race attracted over 2,400 participants from over 50 countries, including many ultramarathon elites, and has been broadcast live on YouTube. Since the event started, all but a few dozen runners have dropped out, but those who remain continue to look strong as the laps tick by.

The race

The race, which started early on April 4, was organized by Personal Peak Endurance Coaching and Canadian ultrarunner and treadmill-running world record-holder Dave Proctor. Proctor was planning a Trans-Canadian speed record for May, and his crew was going to be made up of the Personal Peak team. With the coronavirus outbreak, however, he had to cancel the attempt. Proctor spent months working towards the Trans-Canadian record, and instead of letting his fitness go to waste, he decided to use it for a virtual race. Personal Peak organized the Quarantine Backyard Ultra and sent invitations to the world’s best ultrarunners. The event was open to non-elites, as well, free of charge.

RELATED: Run a virtual ultramarathon with Dave Proctor

Backyard ultramarathons use a “last runner standing” format. All competitors have one hour to run 6.706K. Once complete, they have the remainder of the hour to relax, fuel, go to the bathroom or do anything else they need. At the end of the hour, anyone who didn’t make it back in time gets a DNF, and all those who did make it continue onto their next lap. The last person running is the winner.

Dave Proctor. Photo: Kurtis Kristianson
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For the Quarantine Backyard Ultra, all runners had to log into Zoom and check in regularly every hour. Racers had a choice between running on a treadmill or running outside. As long as they completed the 6.706K lap and could prove it (by showing the Zoom audience their GPS data if they ran outside or their treadmill screen inside), they could move onto the next lap.

RELATED: Inaugural Outrun Backyard Ultra a mudfest

The elite field

Proctor was joined by fellow Canadian Cal Neff, as well as American ultrarunners Courtney Dauwalter and Jamil Coury. As of 2 p.m. on Sunday, 29 hours into the event, Neff, Dauwalter and Coury had registered DNFs, but Proctor and 32 other runners were still at it after running almost 200 kilometres. Maggie Guterl and Will Hayward, first and second at the 2019 Big’s Backyard Ultra, also dropped out of the race. Despite having run so far already, Proctor was ready for many more laps to come.

“I’ll be more tired in 10 hours,” he said at the start of his 27th lap. “But it’s gone swimmingly, everything’s gone according to plan.” Proctor admitted he dealt with a hamstring issue at the start of the race, but he was able to work it out and continue running. “I’m feeling like this is going to go a long, long time.”

RELATED: John Kelly is running his own Barkley Marathons

The open race

The open event accounted for the bulk of the racers from across the globe, including April and Melanie Boultbee, twin sisters from Toronto. They started their race day a little earlier than Proctor and the rest of the crowd on Zoom, but they stuck to the set format.

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Saturday fun with @aprilboultbee. We made a last minute decision to do this run with an early start to avoid potential crowds but luckily the cloudy day kept most people inside. And it is finally noticeable that just about everyone moves to have 6ft of space when meeting each other on the sidewalks. It’s about time Toronto! Thanks to @personal_peak for the idea of this backyard ultra. Maybe it’s more fun when it isn’t entirely on pavement. 😂 April and I know our results don’t count as we started 3 hrs early but we both had fun at our first attempt at this style of race. #running #ultrarunning #backyardultra #quarantinebackyardultra #ppqby #ppqbyu #teamtap #fuelsimply #inknburnambassador #inknburn #saturdayfun #pavementsucks

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“We were worried about there being too many people out on the streets, so we wanted to get out early when there were fewer people to get some running done,” said April. “So we don’t have official finishes or anything, but we did the whole thing as we should’ve done.”

RELATED: Dave Proctor announces a second cross-Canada speed record attempt

The pair has been running ultramarathons since 2010, but this was the first backyard race format they’d run. They stayed in for 10 laps (almost 70K) before calling it a day. They admit they could have gone longer, but their plan was to run the 10 laps and drop out.

RELATED: Jamil Coury runs helipad marathon ahead of state-wide lockdown

The race is still being run, and it looks like it might go for several more laps. For live updates, head to the Personal Peak Twitter page.