On October 21, 2023, 75 runners set off in a never-ending race that pushes the boundaries of human endurance, the Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra, which also served as the 2023 individual world championship for backyard ultra running.
The race is simple; runners have one hour to complete a 6.709k loop before beginning another loop on the hour.
If a runner completes the loop before the hour, they can use the extra time however they want. For example, many use it to prepare for the next lap and use that time to eat, rest, or take on fluids.
The race continues until only one runner is left standing, who must complete one solo lap to be awarded the win.
American ultrarunner Harvey Lewis outlasted the competition and edged out Canadian competitor Ihor Verys in a thrilling duel on Wednesday night.
Lewis completed 108 loops, running a total of 724.248 km – or 450 miles. Lewis also took down the previous world record by over 40k after running for five days.
Lewis came in as the course’s defending champion when he outlasted the field of 75 accomplished runners after 85 laps and 570.2 km.
This year, ten participants completed over 85 laps, Lewis’ previous winning distance, and six runners completed the once seemingly insurmountable barrier of 100 or more laps.
After Bartosz Fudali of Poland finished his race after 103 laps, it was American Lewis, and Canadian Verys left to duke it out.
Both were plagued with exhaustion and would spend another four hours on the course. On the 108th lap, Verys made his way back to the start area, as he was not able to complete the loop and pulled out of the race.
Verys is credited with powering Lewis’ win, and the two celebrated together shortly after Lewis completed the race.
There was a small but strong contingent of women racing, and Claire Bannwarth of France would be the last woman standing. Bannwarth broke her own French national record of 48 laps by completing 60 at the Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra.
Canada’s Amanda Nelson finished second behind Bannwarth and also reset her own Canadian national record by completing 57 laps.
The world of backyard ultra running has been rapidly growing in quantity and quality of participants since its beginnings in 2011.
After the 60th lap, race director Gary Cantrell took to social media and said, “In 2019, the winner of Big’s did 60 yards. Right now, we have 31 people out on the 60th yard. I think that is what they mean by exponential growth.”