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Mike Wardian runs 63 laps for 422K to win the Quarantine Backyard Ultra

After over 60 hours and 400 kilometres of racing, the American ultrarunner won the virtual race

World Marathon Challenge

The Quarantine Backyard Ultra started Saturday morning, and over 2,400 runners from more than 50 countries joined the virtual race. Runners ran 6.706K every hour for as long as they could, and over 60 hours later, only two runners remained: American Mike Wardian and Radek Brunner of the Czech Republic. Brunner missed the start of the 63rd lap and was therefore disqualified, making Wardian the winner after 422K.

How the race unfolded

With every passing lap of the Quarantine Backyard Ultra, more and more of the world’s best ultrarunners dropped out and registered DNFs. Last year at the Big’s Backyard Ultra, Maggie Guterl ran 60 laps for 402K, but a nagging back injury forced her to pull out of the race this weekend after just nine laps.

After 15 laps and 100K, Jamil Coury called it a day. Three laps later, Canadian Cal Neff dropped out. At the 100-mile mark, 2019 UTMB winner Courtney Dauwalter threw in the towel, along with 72-year-old Gene Dykes. Later on, after 31 laps, Canadian Dave Proctor (who helped bring the event into fruition), had to end his race due to back pain.

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The final two

After 46 hours, only Wardian and Brunner remained, and they ran for almost 20 more laps. The two finalists had very different setups for the final laps. Brunner ran solo in his house on a treadmill while Wardian took to the streets with a support crew and several cyclists riding alongside him as he ran. The winner of multiple U.S. national titles at ultra distances, Wardian is well known in the running community. He has run the Western States 100 and the UTMB multiple times, and he finished 11th at the 2011 Comrades Marathon and third at the 2010 Marathon des Sables.

Brunner is less well known, at least in the North American ultra community, but like Wardian, he has an impressive running resume. He has represented the Czech Republic on multiple occasions, competing at the 24-hour, 100K and trail world championships. At the 2017 24-hour worlds in Ireland, Brunner came 14th. He has also run to the podium four years in a row in the Spartathlon, a 246-kilometre ultramarathon in Greece. Although he didn’t win, after this run, Brunner’s name has become much more well known in the ultrarunning community.

Courtney Dauwalter
Courtney Dauwalter at the Moab 240. Photo: Moab 240 mile Endurance Run.

Coury, who has attempted the Barkley Marathons five times, said, “It was a bit of a tough day, for sure. I was hoping to go as long as I could— 24 or 30 hours—but you never know with these things.” Although he didn’t get as far as he would’ve liked, Coury cut himself some slack, seeing as he’d run a marathon around a 27-metre course just four days earlier.

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He ran the first seven hours around his office’s neighbourhood, then eventually drove home (he made it to his treadmill with three minutes to spare before the start of the next lap) and made it to 100K before bowing out.

Dauwalter said she got to the 100-mile mark and decided that was “a solid day.”

“When I signed up I didn’t have major plans,” she said. “I wanted to make it at through the night, because that’s always special and fun to see the sunrise.” She did make it through the night, got her sunrise and retired from the race soon after.

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All done lap 27!!! Feeling good.

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“I think this is a really fun format,” she said. “It’s great with the camaraderie. You come back from a lap and go on the Zoom chat with the other runners.” Proctor also noted how much fun it was to chat on the Zoom and YouTube feeds.

“It’s so unique,” he said. “When all the runners go off and do their thing, I get extraordinarily busy talking to everybody on YouTube.” He said that he spent around half of his time on the treadmill answering questions viewers had posted on the YouTube live video.

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“I found that it was really quite rewarding. It gets your mind off of what you’re doing and it gives you something [else] to do.” While they were both still in the race, Proctor and Coury teamed up and answered questions together, adding some fun banter to the mix as well.