Just one more lap
A new backyard ultra world record inspires me to keep going on a long, muddy run through a swamp
A Canadian woman was crouched down next to a weary man slumped in a camp chair, his eyes barely open, spoon-feeding him chopped-up pancakes and telling him: “One more lap. Just one more lap.” He nodded, dazed. A whistle blew three times and he hauled himself up out of the chair and went to stand on the start line, still looking half asleep.
“Ten, nine, eight …” the countdown began. A grinning man with a moustache trotted over, all gangly legs, stuffing water bottles down the back of his shorts, doing side stretches. “Two, one … go.” The gangly man sprinted off. The younger guy, a Ukrainian-Canadian, shuffled into gear and started jogging.
This, for anyone who hasn’t clocked it yet, was the closing stages of last week’s Backyard Ultra World Championship, a race that began on Saturday and was still going on Wednesday. The format of this race is a bit unique. Every hour you have to run a 4.1-mile loop, then do what you need to do (eat, poo, sleep, whatever) and be ready to go again for another lap on the next hour. Fail to get back, or fail to be ready to start again, or just decide you don’t want to, or that you can’t carry on, well then you’re out. The race goes on until one person is left.
Get two really stubborn people in the same race, two people determined to go on until everyone else quits, and you could be in for a long race. Get a whole bunch of people from across the world who have already won backyard ultras, put them all in one race - in other words, an entire field of really tough, headstrong, stubborn people - and, well, things can get pretty crazy.