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Ukrainian-Canadian wins inaugural B.C. Backyard Ultra with 261 km

Ihor Verys of Chilliwack, B.C., has now won his first two ultra races

Photo by: @folkandwild

At the inaugural B.C. Backyard Ultra in Salmon Arm, Ihor Verys, a Ukrainian-Canadian living in Chilliwack, was the last man standing, completing 39 laps (261 kilometres) on the undulating dirt trails of Salmon Arm’s Little Mountain Park. Verys dedicated his win to the brave people of Ukraine, who are fearlessly defending their freedom and independence. 

Ihor Verys, 27, among the pack at the B.C. Backyard Ultra. Photo: @folkandwild

Fifty-four runners started the race on April 29 at 8:00 a.m. The course was designed by Lewiston Ultra Events; in the backyard ultra format, runners have an hour to complete the 6.7 km loop, lining up again every hour until only one runner is left. Verys’s win earned him an automatic bid onto the Canadian team competing at Big’s Backyard Ultra World Championship this October. 

The faster a runner completes each loop, the more time they have to rest and eat before the next loop begins. No aid is allowed on the course, and pacers are prohibited–runners may only interact with their crew at the start/finish line.

Besides Verys, there were two other runners remaining heading into the second night: Kevin Barata and Mitch Leblanc. After 244 km, Barata was the first to drop out, starting lap 37 but was ultimately unable to finish. Leblanc and Verys both went out on lap 38 but after a few minutes in, Leblanc turned around and DNF’d.  

The B.C. Backyard Ultra marked Verys’s first time competing in the backyard format and only his second-ever ultra. He won his first (the Finlayson Arm 100K in Victoria last September) in 15:36:20. 

Ihor Verys high-fiving some kids as he completes a loop at the B.C. Backyard Ultra. Photo: @folkandwild

When we asked Verys about the change in distance, he said he didn’t make any adjustments for the particular distance or format. “I base my training on putting in quality miles over quantity, with the focus on elevation gain,” he says. 

Another tactic he used was training in the evening. “All of my runs leading up to this ultra were done in the darkness with a headlamp,” says Verys. “I had to teach myself to be comfortable with running at night, when most runners start to have problems.”

Verys, 27, grew up in Chornomorsk, located in southwestern Ukraine, and moved to B.C. when he was 21. He has always enjoyed running, but through the pandemic he took advantage of his natural backyard in Chilliwack. “My goal is to keep exploring my limits and see how far I can get in this sport,” he says. 

Verys and Leblanc in the trails. Photo: @folkandwild

The young ultrarunner has his sights set on more standard 100-milers this summer before he represents Canada at Big Dog’s Backyard Team Championships in October.