Races Video

Hunting the Last Survivor at the Backyard Ultra

A truly unique and extraordinary race that puts not only physical endurance but also mental strength to the test is the “Backyard Ultra.”

The Backyard Ultra is an ultramarathon like no other. In this competition, participants must consecutively run a distance of 6.706 kilometers in less than an hour, which is equivalent to a pace of 100 miles in 24 hours. What sets this race apart is the absence of a predetermined race length or time limit. The race continues as long as there is at least one runner capable of completing the lap within an hour, while all other participants receive the acronym “DNF” (Did Not Finish). The race concludes when only one runner remains to complete a lap, and that runner is declared the winner, the sole finisher.

This unique race format was conceived by Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell, one of the organizers of the renowned Barkley Marathons. His initial Backyard Ultra, named “Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra,” remains one of the most prestigious events to this day, taking place on Cantrell’s property in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, and named after his dog.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Backyard Ultra is its unpredictability. Every runner must endure sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion, and ever-changing weather conditions, making it a genuine test of endurance and mental fortitude.

In contrast to traditional ultramarathons that require rigorous physical preparation, the Backyard Ultra welcomes even less physically trained individuals. The primary challenge here is mental rather than physical. Participants have no idea when the race will end, and their rankings depend not on themselves but on the mental resilience and determination to persist.

Each runner must strive to maintain a consistent pace during the hours of running and make the most of brief rest periods. Successful Backyard Ultra runners aim for rest periods of 14 to 18 minutes, requiring them to complete the 6.706-kilometer lap in just 42 to 46 minutes.

According to Lazarus Lake, the creator of this race, most runners drop out not due to the per-lap time limit but due to diminishing mental strength. He famously stated that the “hardest part of the course is between your chair and the starting corral.” When a runner displays signs of pain or fatigue, it often motivates others to continue, expecting that runner to eventually give up.

Participating in a Backyard Ultra is an unforgettable experience that tests your inner strength and determination. The feeling of witnessing other runners falter along the course while you keep going is a unique experience. It’s an extraordinary demonstration of what can be achieved when physical and mental limits are pushed.

If you’re seeking a challenge that goes beyond traditional marathons or ultramarathons, the Backyard Ultra might be just the adventure for you. Prepare to run, endure sleep deprivation, battle fatigue, and put your determination to the test. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose; what matters is participating and surpassing your own limits.

As of now, the record stands at 102 laps (684 kilometers), achieved by Phil Gore in Australia during the 2023 Australian Backyard Masters.

In Italy, the competition has gained popularity under the name “L’ultimo sopravvissuto” (The Last Survivor) since last year, offering a final prize of €1,500 and the opportunity for the Italian winner to participate in “Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra.”

Until the next running adventure!