Suffolk Backyard Ultra final three 2024

The Hard Yards

'It's only easy till it isn't'. Incredible performances in Suffolk Backyard Ultra...

The Challenge Running Suffolk Backyard Ultra website has an interesting line under the section headed Timings: "Finish…Sometime after the start." In that cryptic sentence lies the essence of the event. No one knows when it will finish – it depends on who is still running.

This year's race, at Knettishall Heath Nature Reserve near Thetford, started at noon on Saturday 1 June, and ended – finally – just before 4:00am on Wednesday 5 June when Polish endurance athlete Lukasz Wrobel crossed the line after completing 88 laps of the 6,706m/4.167mile course for a total distance of 366.67 miles in a running time of 63:41:15.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, a Backyard Ultra requires all competitors to start on the hour every hour, complete the 4.167-mile trail loop within that time, and then go around again. You must run the loop and be back ready to start the next loop or you are out. The race continues until only one person can complete a loop that nobody else completes within the hour. As the website says: "The concept may be simple, the rules are simple, but it’s only easy till it isn’t!"

As for the odd distance, that's easily explained. Complete 24 laps (or 'Yards' in Backyard Ultra parlance) within 24 hours and you will have achieved 100 miles – and that threshold was surpassed by 44 runners (5 women and 39 men) by noon on Sunday 2 June. Karen Nicol was the best of the female competitors – timed out on Yard 34 after completing 33  laps/137.51 miles – in 14th position overall, although classified as a non-finisher (DNF) with everyone else apart from Wrobel, as under the cruel rules of Backyard Ultra racing only the winner is shown as a finisher.

As the race moved into its third day, the attritional nature of this event had worn the 233 starters down to just five men. Oriol Antolissarau (Spain) retired after 75 Yards/308.34 miles. He was the course record holder with 82 Yards/341.67 miles achieved last year but was hampered by an injury this year.

Next to throw in the towel was Antonio Di Manno (Italy). After setting an Italian record at 77 Yards/320 miles he continued for two more circuits to finish on 79 Yards/329.17 miles. Three laps later it was down to two men standing after Hendrik Boury (second last year) rang the bell of defeat after setting a new German record of 82 Yards/341.67 miles.

And so it was the final head-to-head between Britain's Matthew Blackburn and the seemingly unstoppable Wrobel. The British record fell on Yard 82 but Matt suggested to the organisers he might put a few more on, saying: "I've nothing better to do this week." 

It was on the 88th Yard that Matt was finally forced to admit defeat so his new British record is 87 Yards/362.51 miles. All that was left was for Matt to ring the bell and for everyone to welcome the 2024 Suffolk Backyard Ultra champion across the finish line.  

Results and previous reports via the runABC South race listing here.

Photos courtesy of Challenge Running on Facebook

Suffolk Backyard Ultra 2024​​​​​​​

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