Ultrarunner Michael Wardian Wins Quarantine Backyard Ultra

We’re all looking to find ways to stay active during this odd time when many of us are locked down at home. This has led to rise in virtual athletic competitions, including a number of long-distance running events. One of the more interesting of those competitions was Quarantine Backyard Ultra, which included more than 2000 participants from across the globe in a “last-man standing” format in which runners kept going until there was only one left. The race turned out to be quite a grueling affair, which was ultimately won by American ultrarunner Michael Wardian.

The format for the race was simple. Each runner had to answer an hourly bell, then complete a lap of 6.7 km (4.1 miles) within that hour. Go slow and you can conserve energy, run faster and you can relax and rest between laps. Under the quarantine rules, the lap can be run anywhere, provided the athletes were socially distancing. Some ran on treadmills, others did short loops through their neighborhood, while some literally ran in their backyards. Video conferencing app Zoom was used to keep track of everyone’s progress and for the runners to communicate with one another throughout the race.

With so many people taking to the virtual startling line, it took awhile for the number of participants to start to fall. However, after 44 hours of competition, the race was down o just three remaining people—Wardian, Anna Carlsson who was running laps around a frozen lake in Arctic Sweden, and a Czech runner named Radek Brunner, who was on a treadmill. Carlsson dropped out at the 48 hour mark, while Wardian and Brunner pressed on for another 15 hours. When it came time for the 63rd lap, Brunner was unable to answer the bell, which left Wardian to complete his final loop before claiming victory.

In the end, he had covered a distance of 422 km (262 miles) over a span of 63 hours, running that same 6.7 km loop the entire time. To me, that’s part of the grind of this kind event. Running log distances are hard enough, but at least the scenery is changing. Doing the same loop over and over again sounds like it would be mentally very hard to take. Of course, these elite ultrarunners know how to push those kinds of distractions out of their mind, but I think I’d b out after just four or five laps simply because of boredom.

Congrats to all who took part in this virtual event for finding ways to stay active during the pandemic. Double congratulations to Wardian for outlasting the entire crowd.

Kraig Becker