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Backyard Ultra bringing unique race to Okotoks

Running: River valley the venue for Outrun event on July 30
SPORTS-Backyzard Ultra
Lazarus Lake and Outrun Racing co-founder, Stephanie Gillis-Paulgaard, at a past event. Lake is the creator of the Barkley Marathon in Tennessee, widely considered one of the most difficult ultra-marathons in the world. (Photo Courtesy Take Roots Consulting)

A race with no finish line is just over a month away from starting in Okotoks.

“This is the race like no other,” said Stephanie Gillis-Paulgaard, race director for the Outrun Backyard Ultra. “The format was developed by Lazarus Lake, the creator of the Barkley Marathon and all of the crazy running.

“And the backyard has no finish line, the whole concept is that every hour on the hour the runners will start yet another loop of the exact same course and they will go over and over again until there’s only one runner standing.”

The first bell rings for the start of the Outrun Backyard Ultra on July 30 at 7 a.m.

From there, participants have an hour to complete the 6.706 km loop and continue on in the race.

The world record is a staggering 90 hours, established by Belgium’s Merijn Geerts at an ultra event in Germany last month.

“We see this type of format working really well for any type of runner,” Gillis-Paulgaard added. “Clearly, there are the elites and it’s happening all over the world. I believe there’s 400 races now, we had the privilege of hosting Lazarus Lake in Millarville back in 2019.

“He will not be joining us this year, but trust me, he’ll be watching along.”

The race director added the backyard format enables runners of all levels to reach new limits.

“That’s simply because of what it is, the fact that you’re never far away from the start-finish area,” she said. “The fact that you’re only going 6.706 km every hour so if you finish a loop fast you basically have more recovery time before that bell goes again.

“Listen, there are people that may have completed a 5K and if they completed one lap then they’ve got a new personal best. This the beauty of it.”

The reason for the unusual loop distance is a 24-hour race equals 100 miles in a day, a major milestone in the sport.

On the line for the winner is a spot on the 15-person Canadian national team as the Outrun Backyard Ultra is a silver ticket event.

The top performer will get the opportunity to compete with Team Canada at the Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra World Championship in Summerland, B.C. in October.

Prior to COVID, the world championship event was held at Lazarus’ home in Tennessee, with the winds changing amid the travel restrictions over the past three years.

“What happens now is every other year we’ll have what’s called the national championships and then the following year is the world championships that only 75 runners get to go to in Tennessee,” she added.

“National championship right now, we’re looking at over 40 countries to participate.”

To date, there are 53 registered runners representing four provinces: Ontario, Saskatchewan, B.C. and Alberta.

Registration for the event ends on July 15 at midnight.

For more information go to backyardultra.com/races/outrun-backyard/.


Remy Greer

About the Author: Remy Greer

Remy Greer is the assistant editor and sports reporter for Okotokstoday.ca and the Western Wheel newspaper. For story tips contact rgreer@okotoks.greatwest.ca
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