In the world of ultramarathons, nothing is too far.
Harvey Lewis, a dedicated teacher at Cincinnati Public Schools, recently achieved a monumental victory in the prestigious 2023 Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra World Championship. This extraordinary event, held at Big Farm in Short Creek, Tennessee, is renowned as the ultimate test of endurance for backyard ultrarunners worldwide.
I’m going to be honest with you. Until earlier this week, I had never heard of Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra World Championship. But when my boss started giving me updates in Slack that said things like “160+ miles and 51 out of 75 people are still going” I knew I had to see for myself.
In the picturesque setting of Short Creek, Tennessee, the best backyard ultra runners from across the globe converged to compete in a race that defines sheer determination. The Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra, originally conceptualized by Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell, is characterized by a unique format.
Runners undertake a 4.167-mile loop, referred to affectionately as a “yard,” within a strict one-hour time limit. Failure to complete a loop within the designated time leads to elimination. This rigorous competition continues until only one runner remains, having successfully completed the final yard.
The event incorporates two distinct routes, a trail loop for daylight hours and a road loop for the night. The physical and mental stamina required to transition between terrains and maintain consistency for five days is nothing short of extraordinary.
Harvey Lewis, a prominent name in the ultramarathon community, secured his place amongst the last remaining competitors. Remarkably, after 108 grueling hours of running, Harvey achieved a staggering milestone by covering an astounding 450 miles. His tenacity and relentless spirit ultimately earned him the coveted title of “Last Man on Earth” in the backyard ultra world.
This accomplishment is not merely about breaking records but is a testament to the unyielding human spirit. Lewis and his fellow competitors demonstrated unwavering dedication and an unrelenting pursuit of excellence throughout the competition.
At a certain point, six runners had surpassed the 100-hour mark. However, as the race progressed, Harvey found himself alongside just two other tenacious competitors, Ihor Verys and Bartosz Fudali.
In a pivotal moment, Fudali chose not to commence the 104th yard, leaving Harvey and Verys as the last contenders standing. They continued to push their limits, completing yard after yard, until the pivotal moment arrived in yard 108.
In an iconic moment in ultrarunning history, Harvey Lewis emerged victorious. His successful completion of the final yard marked the culmination of an exceptional journey in which he had outlasted all others. It was a moment of pure triumph, signifying the pinnacle of his ultrarunning career.
As if his victory alone wasn’t impressive enough, you’ll be happy to hear that Harvey was running for a great cause. He undertook this incredible challenge to support Brighton Center’s housing programs, which provide vital assistance to families in transitioning from homelessness to homeownership.
“I felt compelled to support Brighton Center for their work in assisting the community with humanitarian needs and helping people who wouldn’t otherwise likely find it. Financial literacy training and a pathway to homeownership are deeply important to me,” said Lewis.
If you take one thing away from watching an event like ultra marathoning, let it be that you’re capable of more than you ever thought possible if you just keep pushing.
Featured image via Harvey Lewis Facebook.