I’m just nipping out – be back in a bit

How would you define crazy? Would it involve running 570 km in 85 hours?

That is what Harvey Lewis did earlier this week in Tennessee, USA, except it is a little more complicated than that. He covered that distance in an ultra event called the “Big’s Backyard Ultra”, which consists of the runners having to cover 6.7 km every hour until there is only one competitor remaining.

It does not matter if that distance is covered in 30 minutes or a full hour: as long as you cover it, and can stand on the start line for the next hour, you remain in the event. It is for this reason that the race is sometimes known as the “race with no finish”. I guess it is the running equivalent to “How long is a piece of string?”.

This mad achievement is, well, mad. Going for a 6.7 km run in one hour is not very taxing for most people of even average fitness, all things considered, but to do it a second hour, then a third, fourth, fifth, and so on, grinding out until you have done it for 85 hours (with all the physical exhaustion and lack of sleep that entails) is bordering on the psychotic.

The unusual distance of a ‘Back Yard’ ultra comes about from dividing 100 miles by 24 hours. This leave us with 4.17 miles, which in kilometres is 6.7 km. While most of us do not have a back yard that big, the name is a mischievous tease, making the challenge sound way more friendly and inviting than it is in reality.

I mean, how many calories are needed to cover that kind of distance? Some quick maths suggests that Lewis must have burned off at least 40,000 calories over the period of the event, which itself is pretty astonishing. Having completed some long distance events myself, I reach a point where my body cannot fuel quickly enough to keep up with the energy being burned off. How this guy managed to do it for 85 hours I do not know!