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Big’s Backyard Ultra World Championship has begun

Five Canadians are among the 35 ultrarunners chasing the prize in Bell Buckle, Tennessee

Big’s Backyard Ultra World Championships, Laz Lake’s infamous last-person-standing ultra, started at 7 a.m. Central this morning in Bell Buckle, Tenn. with 36 runners from 10 countries qualified at backyard races around the world to toe the line today. Watch for Canadians Dave Proctor, Stephanie Simpson, Matt Shepard, Eric Deshaies and Terri Biloski, with the action likely to continue until Monday.

2020 Golden Shoe Awards – Trail Performance of the Year

The rules are simple: the course is a 4.1667-mile (6.7 km) trail loop (a.k.a. yard), which switches to a road loop at night. (The rationale for the length of the loop is that using this formula, 100 miles takes exactly 24 hours.) A new yard starts every hour on the hour. Runners must complete each loop under the one-hour cutoff and be ready on the start line for the next yard. A warning whistle is blown at three, two and one minute before the cutoff. If you fail to finish before the hour is up, it’s a DNF. If you fail to start (and make forward progress) at the top of the next hour, that’s a DNF. This continues until only one runner is left.  

In the early hours of the race, most runners have time to spare after finishing each yard, and they use this time to refuel, use the bathroom, tweak their gear and rest. As the hours wear on and their pace gets slower, they have less and less time before lining up for the next yard.

As the race goes on and fatigue sets in, the dilemma becomes, where is the sweet spot between expending as little energy as possible while maximizing rest time between yards? In other words, the faster you complete the yard, the more rest time you get before the next yard – but you also fatigue more quickly.  

This year’s starting list

This year’s competitors include seven women, two of whom are former Big’s champions Courtney Dauwalter and Maggie Guterl. Courtney holds the record for the most yards run at the Big’s course in Tennessee (68). The world record for the backyard format was set by John Stocker of the U.K. in June 2021, with 81 yards, eclipsing Karel Sabbe’s previous WR of 75 yards, set at last year’s Big’s world championships, on his home course in Belgium.

U.K. runners set new Backyard Ultra world record

Here are this year’s contenders, with their country, age and qualifying number of yards. (Unfortunately, due to travel restrictions, most runners from Europe were not able to participate this year.)

  1. Courtney Dauwalter, USA, 36 (68 yards – i.e., 455.6 kilometres over 68 hours)
  2. Harvey Lewis, USA, 45 (67 yards)
  3. Gavin Woody, USA, 44 (64 yards)
  4. Michael Wardian, USA, 47 (63 yards)
  5. Maggie Guterl, USA, 41 (60 yards)
  6. Amy Masner, Ireland, 47 (59 yards)
  7. Steve Slaby, USA, 40 (57 yards)
  8. Chris Roberts, USA, 36 (56 yards)
  9. Jennifer Russo, USA, 55 (54 yards)
  10. Yukinori Yushida, Japan, 52 (54 yards)
  11. Terumichi Morishita, Japan, 41 (53 yards)
  12. Dave Proctor, Canada, 40 (52 yards)
  13. Jon Noll, USA, 36 (50 yards)
  14. Jacob Conrad, USA, 36 (49 yards)
  15. Katie Wright, New Zealand, 34 (49 yards)
  16. Gabe Rainwater, USA, 33 (48 yards)
  17. Sarah Moore, USA, 33 (48 yards)
  18. Chris Murphy, Australia, 37 (46 yards)
  19. Stephanie Simpson, Canada, 35 (43 yards)
  20. Ron Wireman, USA, 40 (43 yards)
  21. Fanny Jean, France, 41 (42 yards)
  22. Matthew Shepard, Canada, 34 (42 yards)
  23. Hisayuki Tateno, Japan, 50 (42 yards)
  24. Shawn Webber, USA, 47 (42 yards)
  25. Mathieu Weiner, USA, 54 (42 yards)
  26. Piotr Chadovich, USA, 43 (41 yards)
  27. Morton Klingenberg, Denmark, 36 (39 yards)
  28. Chris Boyle, USA, 42 (38 yards)
  29. Andres Villegran, Ecuador, 37 (38 yards)
  30. Will Rivera, USA, 51 (37 yards) (DNS)
  31. Eric Deshaies, Canada, 48 (35 yards)
  32. Vincent Barrientos, USA, 40 (34 yards)
  33. Haim Malki, Israel, 44 (34 yards)
  34. Terri Biloski, Canada, 45 (33 yards)
  35. Jason Bigonia, USA, 44 (32 yards)
  36. Mark Begg, USA, 47 (26 yards)

A livestream sponsored by Salomon is available on the Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra Run Group Facebook page, and live results are available here.