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Run a virtual ultramarathon with Dave Proctor

The Quarantine Backyard Ultra is a chance to race for free this spring

If you’re itching to race this spring but don’t know where to turn, maybe just look to your backyard. The Quarantine Backyard Ultra is a free race that anyone can enter, and you can do it from the comfort of your own home or on a route nearby. Canadian ultrarunner and treadmill-running world record-holder Dave Proctor will be running the Backyard Ultra, which will be broadcast on YouTube starting on April 4, and the Barkley MarathonsLaz Lake will be the honorary race director.

The format

The race starts at 6 a.m. PT on April 4. All runners will connect via Zoom video call, and this is where their progress will be monitored. Athletes can choose between running on a treadmill or on a route that starts and finishes at their home. Runners who choose the former option must point their camera at their treadmill after they complete each lap to prove they completed the distance (each lap is 6.706K).

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Racers who opt to run outside must use a GPS watch or smartphone to record their distance run, and at the end of each lap, they must show proof of the completed lap to the Zoom audience. Once runners complete each lap, they can relax until the next lap begins. The last person running is the winner.

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Live updates and commentary

The race will be live streamed on YouTube, which should satisfy many running fans’ needs for live racing. Better yet, the event will have live updates on its Facebook page written by Lake, and, if all goes well with Zoom, Lake will also provide colour commentary over the live feed as well. Last year, Lake travelled to Calgary and acted as the honorary race director for Proctor’s Outrun Backyard Ultra, which was modelled after Lake’s Big’s Backyard Ultra in Tennessee.

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The race

The race is being organized by Personal Peak, an endurance coaching company that Proctor works with. In May, Proctor was set to attempt a Trans-Canadian speed record, and Personal Peak coaches were going to be his crew for the run. When he had to postpone his attempt, Proctor decided he had to do something to replace it.

Laz arrives in Calgary for the inaugural Outrun Backyard Ultra in 2019. Photo: BOSS Digital Media

“His fitness level wasn’t going to go to waste,” says Stephanie Gillis-Paulgaard, Proctor’s publicist. “Dave’s a competitor, so we said, ‘Let’s see who else we can get on board.'” So, Personal Peak set up the race and they “extended that invitation to all of the best ultrarunners,” Gillis-Paulgaard says. As it stands now, 11 other elite runners have confirmed for the April 4 race, but Gillis-Paulgaard, Proctor and the Personal Peak team hope to attract runners of all levels.

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“Hopefully, for those people who have trained over the winter months, this will give them something to race, whether they run one lap or 50,” Gillis-Paulgaard says. The winner of the event will win what is, according to the race website, “soon to be world’s most coveted prize: The Golden Toilet Paper Roll.” In a time where race opportunities are sparse and toilet paper is hard to come by, you can get both in the newest virtual race.