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Belgian runner sets Backyard Ultra world best with 90 laps (600+ km)

Merijn Geerts ran a total of 90 laps over a 6.7-kilometre course every hour on the hour

Photo by: Merijn Geerts/Strava

Last weekend in Germany, ultrarunner Merijn Geerts of Wilsele, Belgium, set a new world best in the quirky backyard ultra format of 90 laps during the Backyard Masters, breaking Harvey Lewis’s record of 85 laps set at the 2021 Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra. This is equivalent to a total of over 600 km, running the same 6.7 km loop every hour on the hour round the clock, with the only rest breaks being the few minutes between finishing one loop and starting the next.

Geerts broke the record at The Race of the Champions, an invitational in which participants must have qualified with at least 45 laps (300+ km) at a previous backyard ultra.

In the backyard ultra ultra racing format, only runners who finish the lap within the hour cutoff are allowed to start the next lap. When the second-last participant either quits or fails to finish a lap in time, the final runner must complete one more lap to claim victory.

Twenty four runners started the race, and 20 remained after 24 hours. There were four men still in the race after 62 laps; Norway’s Jon Asphjell was the first to drop, then Japan’s Terumichi Morishata dropped shortly after. Ireland’s Keith Russell and Geerts remained active for another 12 laps, until Russell finally dropped out after 89 laps and Geerts managed to complete his 90th lap, reaching a distance of 603.5 km. Both Russell and Geerts went well over Lewis’s previous record of 85 laps.

Geerts (left) recovering at camp after Loop 27 at the Backyard Masters.

Russell started running in 2016 with his daughter Alanna, who had spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, and ran the 2017 Dublin marathon, pushing Alanna in a special running chair.

Geerts previously completed 74 laps and 496 km at this event in 2020. He was also the runner-up at the Backyard Ultra World Cup for the Belgian national team where Belgium won, and Karel Sabbe improved the backyard world record to 75 laps.