Over the weekend, about 100 ultrarunners gathered in Lucasville, Ohio, for Ohio’s Backyard Ultra (OBU), a last-person-standing event and qualifying run for the world championship Big’s Backyard Ultra. The run lasted more than two days, and after 55 hours, Ohio’s Harvey Lewis, 44, took the win with a final distance of 368 kilometres. Second place went to his fellow Ohioan Jennifer Russo, 55, who pushed Lewis for 54 laps (or yards).
A backyard ultra is very different from a regular running event. Instead of awarding runners for their speed, it’s their endurance that matters. Participants have an hour to complete a lap of a 6.7K course. Every runner who makes it back before the hour is up gets to keep running. Anyone who fails to run 6.7K in less than an hour registers a DNF.
At the start of the next hour, every remaining runner sets off for their next “yard,” running the same 6.7K loop. In the OBU, runners repeated this over and over until Lewis was the only person left without a DNF next to his name.
There are no gender categories when it comes to backyard ultras, and there is just one winner at the end of the days-long event. While Russo ran 120 kilometres farther than the next-best woman, she left the OBU course empty-handed after losing to Lewis.
How about this for your Monday morning! Age has no limits as 55 year-old Jennifer Russo battles Harvey Lewis into day 3 at the Ohio Backyard. Yard 50 begins with 204+ miles complete. @HarveyLewisRuns @keithdunn @courtdauwalter @MaggatronRuns @runcamille
Photo: Amy Nelson pic.twitter.com/TdQey6VZp3
— TrailRunLive (@TrailLive) March 22, 2021
Ohio’s Backyard Ultra
This was the third running of the OBU, and Lewis and Russo shattered the previous event records. Going into the weekend, the best performance was 254 kilometres, which 2020 winner Tanner Lee ran last year. That worked out to 38 yards for Lee, which is still well over a day of running.
Lewis and Russo ran a whopping 16 yards more than Lee did in 2020 before Russo had to drop out. Her final distance was a remarkable 362 kilometres, but it wasn’t enough to beat Lewis, who pushed on for another 6.7K. Since they both finished the 54th yard, Lewis had to carry on for one final lap in order to officially win the event, and while it was likely a lonely lap, he managed to get through it and take the victory.
With his win, Lewis has guaranteed himself a spot on the start line of Big’s Backyard Ultra, which is set for October. (Lewis competed in the 2020 virtual edition of Big’s, and he finished as the second-place American, behind U.S. champion Courtney Dauwalter.)
While Russo didn’t book her own ticket to the world championship ultra, her 54 yards have given her a great shot at earning an “at-large” bid, as Big’s race director Laz Lake wrote on the event Facebook page.
She has certainly proven that she has what it takes to endure a long and arduous event, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if she runs to another strong finish at Big’s later this year. For full OBU results, click here.