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Virginia backyard ultramarathon lasts 57 hours, winner runs 382K

Maine's Steve Slaby ran 57 yards to win the Capital Backyard Ultra on Monday

Photo by: Twitter/keithdunn

The Capital Backyard Ultra took place in Lorton, Va., over the weekend, and after 57 hours and 382K, Maine runner Steve Slaby took the win. With the victory, Slaby booked his ticket to the 2021 edition of Big’s Backyard Ultra, Laz Lake‘s world championship last-runner-standing event that is set to run in Tennessee in October.  

How backyard ultras work

At every backyard ultra, there’s just one finisher. Everyone else registers a DNF. The race format is quite simple: everyone starts at the same time and runs one 6.7K lap, also known as a yard. Racers have one hour to complete the yard, and anyone who doesn’t make it back to the start before the allotted 60 minutes are up gets a DNF. 

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When runners make it back to the start, they can use whatever remaining time they have in the hour however they like, whether that’s taking a quick nap, eating, changing into dry clothes or anything else. They just have to make sure they’re on the start line and ready to go at the start of the next hour. This is repeated throughout the event, and the same 6.7K loop is run until one athlete remains. 

It’s also important to note that there are no gender categories in backyard ultras, and there is just one winner, male or female. On Monday, Slaby ended up as the last runner, and after completing his final yard, he was declared the winner and lone finisher of the Capital Backyard Ultra. 

Slaby’s win 

After 42 yards, Slaby was one of only two remaining runners in the event. The other was Missouri’s Chris Roberts, and the two men pushed one another for another 14 hours. Although Roberts ran faster than Slaby for most of the event (Roberts averaged 48:46 per yard, while Slaby ran almost a minute slower, with an average lap time of 49:42), he was unable to carry on as long as Slaby, and he ended up pulling out of the race at the start of the 57th yard. 

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Since Slaby started the yard on his own, all he had to do was complete the 6.7K loop one more time in order to be declared the Capital Backyard champion. Despite already having run 56 yards and more than 370K, Slaby not only completed that final lap, but he ran it faster than he had run the loop at any other point throughout the race, crossing the line in 47:24. 

Slaby’s result shows that speed isn’t necessary in a backyard ultra. If you run a yard quickly you’ll have more time to rest, but you may also deplete yourself and not be able to stay in the event as long as your competitors. Slaby’s final lap may have been his quickest, but it wasn’t that fast compared to some of the other splits his fellow racers ran. Roberts dropped a 44:43 split earlier in the run, and another runner named Piotr Chadovich posted a 38:48 lap.

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These times didn’t help either man win the race, though, and instead it was Slaby’s consistency that was the key to the victory. He now has four months to prepare for his next backyard ultra at Big’s, where consistency will once again play a big role in his overall performance.