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2nd Hardest Backyard on the Planet?

Updated: Jun 28

If you check our previous blog you can read some wonderful insight from Camino athlete Shree at the internationally respected UK Backyard Ultra at Suffolk. This is a mostly flat course where conditions are kept as optimum as possible to help runners complete as many laps as possible. It's worth remembering that the legend Matty Blackburn broke the UK record with 87 yards (laps/hours).


When Team Camino (Anson, Mark, Max and David) arrived at the beautiful village of Littlington for the inaugral Summer edition of the Longbridge 100 Backyard the first thing we were told was that Race Director Darren had 'feng-shuied' the course - adding extra vert - to make it the second toughest course on the planet. How was this a good thing!!!!!!


Expectations were still high x





The Team had all trained well and we wanted to support each other for a full 24 yards (hours) - which would equate to over 100 miles (in most BU it would equal exactly 100 miles but Darren's was naturally longer and harder!!!). Anything over 24 hour was being considered as a bonus - although the current Winter record was set by our friend and ultramarathon legend Dan Lawson at 25 yards - so the dream was something more in the 30s or 40s....


A message from Coach Darren on our squad WhatsApp group informed us that 46 laps would be the equivalent of ascending Everest (in one go) almost 9000m - surely another sweet target to aim for.


As the reflections of Camino athletes (as well as a few notable superstars on the day) go - the reality of this hot (when it wasn't raining), gnarly/stony and vert munching course/ day tells a completely different story.





We hope that you love this latest edition of our Camino athletes sharing their insight.


We really love the format of the Backyard - as well as the 24 formats (we had a lot of friends recently at Endure 24) - we love the camaraderie that you get from starting together 'on the hour every hour' - the way you can uplift your fellow competitor - the desire to see runners 'do one more lap'. All of this in the company of Darren & Jane and the Longbridge team - who have really created something truly unique and (challenging for all the right reasons).


Enjoy the blog and if you would like to talk to any Camino Coach about Backyards or any current race/event plans then contact us on info@caminoultra.com





ZOE SALT:


Longbridge 100 backyard ultra - Running with Joy

 

I am sat in my sister’s living room drinking my umpteenth cup of tea and munching my way through a plate of biscuits. My brother-in-law Jamie enters and tells me about a race he just ran:  “Zo, you’d love the race director Darren, his races are in beautiful places and he’s super eco-friendly, he does Backyard Ultras and he gives the kids all of the leftover fruit!” There is no-one in the world who hates food waste more than me, except Jamie. Less than an hour later, I have signed up!!!

 

Longbridge is in an absolutely beautiful part of the world, nestled on the South Downs National trail. The closer I got, the more nervous I became, but also the more scenic the surroundings! When Sam collected me from the station, I warned her I might never leave!

 

I arrived at basecamp, signed in and was given my number and a hay bale from the wonder that is Darren. I set up my station and then rearranged it several times after I saw who I presumed were seasoned back yarders setting up their areas. I was in awe when Vic arrived with no less than her own sofa!!! I had brought a yoga mat and an egg timer….

 

Three minutes to six and we all gathered for the first lap of the inaugural summer Longbridge 100 back yard ultra. This was like no race start I had ever been at. I started to run and then turned to Max and said, “I don’t know what to do, do we run or walk?” - I had no game plan!

 

It seems simple on paper, or at least in my head. Run the 4 and a bit miles, get back, have a sleep and a bit of food and go again; any another option hadn’t occurred to me. However, watching Vic and David every lap with their perfect pacing had me questioning any ideas I might have had. 

 

The first night was hard. I was cold, wet and sleepy, but I spent a lot of time talking to Ash who kept me going. Vic kindly offered me her coat when she saw how cold I was, and I got changed several times, running out of dry clothes in the first few hours. The family group chat read ‘I’ll just do a couple more laps and then call it a day” telling my sister and Jamie not to bother coming to see me.

 

However, as with all ultras, no feeling lasts long and by the time the sun began to make an appearance, I seemed to have a second wind. By the time the cavalry arrived with snacks, I was having the time of my life. I was loving every second! It was, as sold, a ‘beautiful but brutal’ course and it certainly lived up to this claim. The green, rolling fields ever changing in the light were magnificent to watch, while the gentle hills at the beginning became ever steeper as time went by and Darren’s quest for this to become one of the hardest back yard ultras became apparent.

 

Darren and all of his team were wonderful; all of the runners were either already friends from previous races or new friends; and every lap we would pass each other twice at the two turn around points and everyone would offer a few words of encouragement or give a thumbs up making for a truly supportive atmosphere. Crews for other runners were really caring and encouraging, offering to help with anything I might need. This was my first backyard ultra and what I loved about it was that it was a collective effort and we all felt like one big team, trying to get everyone as far as they could go, ‘one more lap.’

 

On lap 24 (making it to 100 miles) I thought it would be nice to run it all together, but my anxiety at missing the cut off and/or not being able to shut my eyes for a few minutes got the better of me and off I trotted off, being welcomed back into camp by the unrelenting cheering of everyone left watching!

 

On lap 26 I arrived back to the start to see what felt like a long lost friend sat in the chair. At this point I still didn’t know his name, only that he had made me laugh on every lap, but I demanded to know why he was sitting in the chair and not out on the course. Jan jumped out of the chair and gave me a huge hug as if he’d known me his whole life! You meet people in ultras and share things with them that you’d never do in real life.  These may be your competitors, but even though you are competing with them, you help each other get through the good the bad and the ugly, whilst being quite smelly! The camaraderie at this race was exceptional, and it really represented why I love running.

 

My race had gone really well, I was running to feel and just trying to concentrate on nutrition and fluid intake, which was very successful. I’ve never managed to consume as much food and fluid as I did during this race. At 29 laps I finally decided to call it a day. I was good with the DNF, leaving Sam to go out on lap 30 by himself.  He had looked really strong throughout and was a well deserving winner.

 

It was an absolute joy to run with each and every one in this race. I will definitely be back for more!



RACE VICTOR SAM BRACKE:


"“Am I going out alone?” It’s only 30 seconds before the start of loop 30 when I realise that Zoe isn’t going to line up for another one.


I can't believe it, but organiser Darren confirms it. “Yes, you’re going out alone.” It takes a while for it to sink in fully.


During that last loop alone, a badger crosses my path. We have a few seconds of eye contact. “How are you the last one left,” he seems to think. “Good question,” I nod back. “How? How did that happen?”


30 hours earlier, I left with near-zero expectations for my first loop. After an 11-day adventure across the Pyrenees, with nearly 300 km, 17,000 meters of elevation, a lack of nutritious food, and no proper sleep, your body would probably need some extra rest.


Add a 27-hour car ride from the south of France to the UK, without any sleep, and you might consider catching up on some sleep. But hey, who needs sleep or proper recovery if you could run a Backyard?


Due to the - softly put - not ideal preparation, the Longbridge 100 was all about a good dose of fun. Which is exactly what it was. With running buddy Jan, who is the ideal ally for a Backyard full of fun, we made it through the first 20 hours with big smiles on our faces. We could hardly believe how quickly the 24 hours and the 100 miles, for both of us an achievement we would sign up for in advance, was in sight.


To my surprise, even after the 24 hours, of course with the necessary struggles, it continued to go relatively smoothly. Was it the effect of the French mountain air? The result of living at altitude for 11 days? I seem to have one long runner's high for hours on end.


Zoe also continues to run incredibly strong, but I realise that I am in a win-win situation. If Zoe continues, I break my previous Backyard record of 30 laps. If Zoe stops, I am left last. Either way, I don't care about the outcome, because I have already had another unforgettable running adventure. That in itself is already the most beautiful victory.


The last few weeks have been a celebration of everything that running means to me, with the Longbridge 100 Ultra Backyard as the ultimate climax. The Longbridge community, with the wonderful volunteers, the passionate organization, and the positive atmosphere among the participants, has been a wonderful discovery for me.

It is a confirmation of why running has such a special place in my life. The people, the challenge, being in nature, getting back to basics. To me, running gives me so much more meaning in life.


Running is not a part of my life; it’s a way of living.


During the Longbridge, it all came together. I didn't run to win, I ran to celebrate the greatest passion in my life. That’s how I happened to win my first Backyard. It finally sinks in."




ANSON: "On midsummers evening, I started on my first ever backyard ultra (BYU), The Longbridge 100 Backyard Ultra, organised by Darren at 3WordRuns. They say your first time at anything is always special, and this race easily fits into the category. 


I’ll admit from the start that I got this race all wrong! My ‘A’ target was to do 37 yards, or 37 hours, which would have taken me to just over 154 miles (248km) and my longest distance yet. I wanted to try running more than 36h with no sleep or real rest, as this would give me much-needed experience of running Centurion’s Winter Downs 200 (mile) race in December. I knew the Longbridge BYU had some elevation to it – it says so on the webpage: 590 feet (180 m), but I really hadn’t given any thought as to how that would impact my running a BYU-type race over successive yards. I had also decided before the race that I would not drop out between yards, and that I would always go out onto the course and be timed out, thereby taking out decisions that might have come later.


Before the race started I chatted to several people associated with the WOLO Foundation, a charity helping families affected by cancer in Sussex, and I hadn’t realised how liberating it was to talk to people who have gone through, or are going through, having cancer, and using running or other movement to complement on-going treatments. So that was an immediate plus point, and the race hadn’t even began.


I set up ‘camp’ on a hay-bale in the competitors barn. At first my stuff was fairly well organised into nutrition, hydration, clothing etc. But within a matter of hours, stuff was typically all over the place!


The race started at 6pm and followed an out-in-out-in route. At each of the end points, there was a gazebo and turning point, which you had to go around. Both turning points were at the tops of hills, which added extra difficulty to the course, and you had to pocket a specially made token at the 2nd turning point to hand in when you finished the lap. No token = immediate DNF, and this for me at least added an extra frisson of anxiety every time I reached the finish line and fumbled around trying to find the token in my pockets, alongside squooshed up jelly babies and sticky Gu gel sachets."





RACE DIRECTOR & ALL ROUND GORGEOUS MAN - Darren:


"We loved having a few of the Camino crew at The Longbridge 100 with some amazing ‘tough’ yards being completed.


In life we have to cope with challenges, both physical and mental. It's not easy at all, but we can often find joy in the little things that make those difficult times a little bit easier, especially when it is shared with others.


At the Longbridge 100 we want to make it a tough test but with an element of joy and celebration for what we are able to do. #runwithjoy


“At the start of The Longbridge,

You are never alone,

But to win it,

You have to do 1 on your own.”


(Winners medal Ode)".





Run Grateful's Mark White:


"Loved it, the knee didn't in the end but the beauty for me for getting to the start line.

The long distance, ultra stuff never used to float my boat, I used to get bored after 10k! 

This was always ok for me though, my relationship with running was a more relaxed approach, no stress or pressure for numbers or distances. 


Then after chatting with someone a few years back about the ultra scene, they positioned it as time outdoors, on feet etc, this was inviting.


Fast forward a period of time & I bumped into Mr David Bone & his trusted side kick Paula and I was sold. 


Fast forward another period of time and I entered the Camino Ultra 50k Lea valley, not the best outcome as my knee went, but I loved the vibe and the distance was actually quite pleasurable! 


So here I was now inspired to commit to see if I could maybe get to 100 miles under my belt within the back yard format, after volunteering at the winter version I walked away thinking, let's sign up for the summer back yard party.


I was surprised with my effort of upping my mileage, it was going well, the body felt ok & I had no real injuries which was handy, the standard aches and pains and tiredness but nothing outrageous, it comes with the territory.


I decided a month or so out I would raise money for an amazing charity to add a layer of importance and I was all set for the big day.


With friends, weather was decent, spirits were high and this was happening, the biggest running challenge of my life.


The hills were alive, very funky indeed!




I felt ok, chipping away at the yards trying to keep the mind in check and not think too far ahead, the initial 100 mark I can't lie felt pretty unlikely after a few loops but I was rolling with it, and then 25 odd miles in the knee went, gutted! I managed to get to 30 odd but the DNF came. 


No dramas, I was thinking the body would be asking questions after around 50 but it came sooner.


I loved the process, I ran my first ever marathon during training, my first 40 miler, I racked up a few 60/70 mile weeks and the GRATITUDE was high that I was capable of such things!


The event was great, the volunteers amazing and extremely grateful to have had this life experience with David, Anson and Max with the exceptional support of Paula & Jessica 


Let's see if I can sneak a 100 in my life time, 


I don't just run , I RUN GRATEFUL 




MAX: "

I've never done a Backyard so this was always going to be a learning experience, but what better hands to be in than race director Darren's.


Longbridge is set in a beautiful bit of the country with stunning views of rolling countryside, the sea, and the Westbury White Horse.


I can't lie, I went into this race completely nieve of what I had in store, but I had a open arm, heart, and mind, but even though I gave it all I had, I was completely unprepared for the continuous rolling hills.


Also unhelped by my car battery being completely dead when I jumped in the car to drive down, so I only had 10 minutes to get prepared before the start of the race.





But in reflection I had an amazing race,

I definitely need to fuel more if a race had more elevation than I'm used to, and definitely need to get more elevation in my training.


These events attract the most amazing people, and it's always such and honour to share a course with them, that includes the organisers and all the volunteers.


Can't wait to have another crack at it next year!"




JESS:


"I was lucky enough to be able to get a glimpse of the Longbridge Backyard Ultra from a non-runner's point of view, doing a tiny bit to support the Camino Ultra athletes as they achieved such amazing things. I couldn't be more proud of our Camino Ultra family.


From a crew perspective, it was a glorious day in the sunshine, largely spent relaxing, with a hive of activity when the runners came back at the end of each lap. Despite having to become rather inventive with our approach to make ice each hour to keep our runners cool, and getting panicked as the minutes ticked by towards the turn of the hour when runners weren't back, this was definitely the easy job. Increasingly, as the day went on, catch up chats over a leisurely 15minute turnaround became 3 minute f1 pitstops. All whilst treading a fine line between positivity and bullying! What struck me continously was the sheer determination of all of the runners, and the camaraderie between them. It was a delight to be around. We hadn't planned to stay for so long, but we couldn't tear ourselves away. Friends who has stopped running became crew members, all invested in helping those still running to keep going as long as possible. There didn't seem to be an ego in sight, and it was really special.


I know that the heat and terrain meant some didn't run as far as they hoped, but I couldn't be prouder. It was a joy to be a small part of the day."


DAVID:





" I have so much love to give.


Darren knows I love him - the Camino team know how much they mean to me x


For the here and now I shall focus on the menacing side - the chimp x


When you reached the second turn on every lap you are confronted by the Yard Cupboard - there is a drawer for each Yard - you have to take out one token and return it to the finish. On top of this piece of design genius is a plaque to celebrate Dan Lawson's win in the first Winter version of Longbridge. From Yard 1 this sat with me.


Win this event and your plaque will sit next to Dan's for eternity - that in itself was everything.


The mantra on the team bus was 'Always finish on the course and never in the chair'.

It's a beautiful one to sit with 'lap after lap after lap'. Of course I won't 'just give in' - I will stay out until I get timed out.


Someone will need to take my plaque off the cupboard.


Vic Owens (my BU BUddy) knows - maybe only Vic and my Coach know what eight hours of chimp bashing inside a Longbridge Backyard does to your baseline mantras.


Sorry Dan but the allure of the plaque had vanished. The chimp had moved on from Littlington and all the way to Death Valley. I had four weeks gap between this event and crewing in 50+ degree heat as part of Badwater.


I grew a foot complex.


My feet were hot. The overnight rain and soggy conditions plus second day heat were giving off major skin loss vibes. The chimp honed in on this big time.

SOS - Save our Soles!!!!!


Lap 24 came in. So proud of Vic and I. We did what we set out to do for Base A - 24 yards and 100 miles. A decent nurdle.


As part of our UN Pact I joined the 25 Yard gang. Curious to see who was there - Sam (Bracke) and Zoe the effortless legends - plus wild-man of Borneo Jan and cool-hand Joel.

This was it folks - one last throw of the Backyard Dice. After 24 pretty chilled laps it was time to lay down one silly lap to see whether it ruffled any feathers.


For Zoe - who had been my barn companion and who did not miss one heartbeat the entire event - she was too far off in the distance again to care. Again silky smooth Sam saw me clip a heal or two but I doubt he was that concerned.

All in all the collective damage was done.


I cruised into the finish line and headed into the crew area to see Paula, Jess and Anson for one last beautiful time. The Chimp (not the real me) said something stupid and I headed out to the Yard 26 Start pen in my Oofos to give Sam, Zoe and Jan a good-luck hug. Proud of them - really proud of Zoe who really deserves all the kudos from this one. To Sam who is clearly an ultra-legend of the near future.







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Shree
Shree
7月01日

What an inspiring read! I loved following everyone's unique perspective on the race. David's run on the hot spots and skin loss is just too painful for me to imagine! very well done Camino family, proud to be a part of it!

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