One of the biggest races of 2020 so far, the Quarantine Backyard Ultra, was run on the weekend, and thousands of runners from over 50 countries laced up to compete in the virtual event. One of these runners was Ben Tidwell, a 13-year-old from King George, Va., who ran 25 hours for a total distance of 104.25 miles (167.75K). Stephanie Gillis-Paulgaard of The Roots Podcast caught up with Tidwell and his family after his incredible accomplishment.
Ben Tidwell, 13 years old from King George, VA runs 104.17 miles in the Quarantine Backyard Ultra.
— Take Roots Consulting 🌱 (@take_roots) April 7, 2020
One of Gillis-Paulgaard’s first questions is one that comes to mind for most people when they hear about ultrarunning: Why? Why run so far and for so long? The answer—for Ben, at least—is because running is a family affair. His older sister, Becca, said she started running when she was nine, and soon afterward, her dad began training for ultramarathons, so she tagged along.
Ben’s younger sister, Anna, runs, too. Gillis-Paulgaard asked her what the farthest distance is that she’s run, and she responded simply: “A marathon.” Her family corrected her and said it was actually 50K. It only makes sense that Ben’s reason for racing the Quarantine Backyard Ultra was because of his family as well.
Congratulations to the winner of the Quarantine Backyard Ultra! @mikewardian finished
— Personal Peak Endurance Coaching (@PersonalPeakEC) April 7, 2020
“My dad was doing it and I was just gonna do it, too,” he said. He and his father, Rob, started the race together, running loops of 6.706K around their neighbourhood. The father-son duo ran together for the first six laps, but on the seventh, Rob says Ben “ran me into the ground.”
In the zone
Rob managed to finish the seventh lap for a final distance of about 47K, but his son kept going. And going. And going. It wasn’t until Ben had run for 25 hours and over 100 miles that he finally called it a day and went inside for a much deserved rest. Gillis-Paulgaard asked him how he stayed motivated to continue to run solo, and his answer was simple: “You just get into this zone and you keep on going.”
204.02 miles completed!!! pic.twitter.com/tNM2irDmJH
— Take Roots Consulting 🌱 (@take_roots) April 6, 2020
His family—Becca, Anna, Rob (after he retired from the race) and Ben’s mother, Kris—acted as his support crew throughout the race, bringing him food after every lap (Kris says he knocked back multiple bowls of tomato soup, several sandwiches, shrimp and grits, pasta salad and much more before the day was over). After the race, Ben and his family “crashed on the couch for four hours,” Kris said, ate some more and went to bed.
The race was broadcast over Zoom and YouTube, so word eventually got out that a 13-year-old was still in the race after over 20 hours. When Canadian ultrarunner and co-creator of the Quarantine Backyard Ultra Dave Proctor found out about Ben’s run, Gillis-Paulgaard (Proctor’s publicist) said he was in awe.
“I think we’re hearing right now about a future Barkley [Marathons] winner,” Proctor said. The ultrarunning world will have to wait a few years to see if that prediction comes true, but Ben Tidwell is a runner to watch for in the future.