top of page

Is it time for you to do a Backyard Ultra?

Updated: Feb 21



Camino have just returned back to earth from Planet Longbridge!


There is something other-worldly about the latest running phenomenon - Backyard Ultras.


The concept is straight-forward.


You all start together and run a 4.167 Mile loop.

You have one hour to complete the loop

You must be in the 'start pen' ready to start the next loop 'on the hour'.

Runners drop out when they can go no more or if they do not get back inside the hour.

When there are only two runners left the Backyard goes until one retires.

The Last One Standing must complete 'One More Lap' to be the actual winner.


Our close friend and Green Tzar Darren Evans has created a new (and fully sanctioned) Backyard Ultra in his own backyard - Littlington Sussex on the Longbridge Estate. A few vital things that you need to know. Darren is unashamedly 'planet first' - when designing this loop it was respecting the natural paths and the land the event was taking place on. Everything was curated to 'leave no trace'.


There are plenty of Backyard Ultra events in the UK. Some like the Suffolk Backyard attract the best runners around and their loop is fairly 'easy and straightforward'. Darren's loop is in the Worlds top for elevation (he explains his reasons below!)

This was also a pilot event for when Darren hosts his Summer version.



This blog serves to share with you all you need to know about the Summer Longbridge Backyard - why Camino athletes will be taking some of these prized and limited places.

Why the Backyard format is a unique way to see athletes take themselves to unparalleled limits. How you can and should get involved.


The Winter event was won by our beloved Dan Lawson - completing 25 laps (or Yards as they are called in Backyards!) The 'Assist' - the title given to the runner who pushed the winner to the end went to the amazing John Gunnell.


Huge respect to everyone who took part and who gave us all such drama - you have to be in that arena screaming 'One More Lap' to appreciate the throwback to the Gladiator days - Camino love it x



Race Director Darren with one of his many special touches - personalised wooden box for each runner where they collect their own 'Yard' token each lap - when they finish their box contains all the Yards they completed.


Big Love to Darren and his team - for all the inspirational acts of kindness and the attention to details to keep this event rewarding but not resource intense x


CAMINO:

Some of you will already know Darren as the Co-Founder of The Green Runners or as the Bard of Camino - check out Darrens beautiful poem that he wrote as a love letter to the Green landscape of Epping Forest (when we ran our 25KM EcoTrail last October)

When we heard that Darren was hosting this pilot Backyard we knew that we wanted to offer any small acts of assistance. The drama and the special touches that this event presents has captivated us and we are thrilled to be getting even more involved in the Summer version. Over to Darren to share more about the way he wants this event to be known.


DARREN:


"The Longbridge 100 Backyard Ultra unfolded as a beautiful yet brutal test of endurance on the historic grounds of Litlington. Winner Dan Lawson conquered 25 yards, closely assisted by John Gunnell at 24 yards, while Vicky Owens claimed the female title with an impressive 19 yards.


Set against the backdrop of re-developed farm buildings and embracing the area's rich history, the race showcased a commitment to sustainability. The environmentally conscious event featured a shuttle bus from the local train station and upheld a single-use plastic-free ethos.


Limited to 40 runners, all housed in farmyard barns at the start/finish line, the race eliminated the need for tents or cars. Electric mini-bus transfers further reduced the carbon footprint, emphasizing the event's dedication to eco-friendly practices.

The challenging 4-mile loop, encompassing 623 feet of elevation, tested participants' stamina on the ancient Sussex hills. Completing the 100 yards meant conquering nearly 15,000 feet of elevation—a true testament to the runners' resilience.


The race followed the Backyard Ultra format, with a unique 'natural' gift for those taking part, aligning with the historic Longbridge 100 legacy. The ultimate victor, Dan Lawson, claimed not only the title but a bespoke silver plated coin and a handmade natural wool beanie.


Camp facilities in the adjacent farm barns offered runners and crew a comfortable respite, complete with access to Cadence Cafe's food and drink, and a covered rest area. The aid station provided essentials for the participants on their relentless journey through the Sussex hills.


The reason I wanted The Longbridge to be tougher than most backyards is to keep the runner numbers low max 70 for the Summer and max 40 for the Winter and to incorporate similar elevation to the SDW100.


“The Longbridge 100 Backyard Ultra is a valuable training tool for the Centurion South Downs Way 100 due to its similar elevation profile over 24 yards. It provides an ideal setting for ultra training, allowing participants to test nutrition and hydration strategies in a controlled environment while eliminating the necessity for long point-to-point training runs. The SDW100's inclusion in the World Trail Majors adds significance to this preparatory event.”


In summary, the Longbridge 100 Backyard Ultra seamlessly blended history, sustainability, community and an arduous test of endurance, leaving runners with both physical accomplishments and a deep connection to the ancient landscape of Litlington"


CAMINO: There are certain things in ultrarunning which tend to give rise to a one dimensional look and feel - that can often be a bunch of men - mostly white and often too old to know better. So what about the Backyard scene. Well if the Longbridge event is anything to go by then it is a thriving scene for talented and aspiring females from all backgrounds. There were stunning runs by the eventual winner Vic Owens and a brilliant cameo by Kasia and a gutsy one from Magdalena to name a few.


Vic shares her Longbridge experience - We loved seeing all the emotions with her super crew Dad x





VIC:


"After months of no training, and very little running due to the heart-breaking and extremely sudden loss of my most beautiful mother, I made a rather last minute decision to enter Longbridge 100 Backyard Ultra.



Longbridge started at 6pm, in the dark, and gave each runner the glorious gift that was 634ft of elevation per yard, also known as 4.16 miles. The darkness, and the cold, was a brutal way to start a race, and come sunrise, even though over 30 of us started, I struggled to even count double figures as I looked round the start pen.


But when the sun rose, and the light surrounded us, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. That 'yard' was the most beautiful, and I recall stretching out my arms and flying down the hills, soaking in the now visible surroundings.



Longbridge 100 is a real grass roots event, hosted by Darren at 3WordRuns.


Darren is committed to minimising our environmental impact and promoting sustainability. The overall organisation of the event really embodied the warmth and caring attitude that shines through Darren, without a doubt a race director that cares greatly not only for the environment, but for the runners that partake in his events.



I arrived at this race wobbly at the knees, with a heavy and rather broken heart, feeling a little lost in my own shoes, and wondering if I still had anything left to give.


I finished with a smile on my face, warmth in my heart and the honour of receiving the 'furthest female distance' cup. None of this would have been possible without my Dad, the extra assistance of my best friend Gav, as well as the entire 3WordRuns team, from the cheering marshals to the warm encouraging words and genuine love received from the event team upon completion of each yard. An event I look forward to supporting again."


Kasia has written this brilliant insight into some of her Yards (Laps) - Thank you Kasia.







"During the course, there was only one point of the at each lap where I checked my time - usually it was showing between 31-36 minutes. It was so that I knew if I go at similar pace, or if I need to hurry up.


Lap 13 - the most beautiful sunrise that I could wish for, the first time we can see the actual route and views (rather pretty!), suddenly I notice there are very few of runners left and I feel very emotional


Lap 14 - my skin is on fire and I just want to take my clothes off (is it just me? It comes and goes away!)- pretty sure I can’t run topless though, so I focus on the daylight views. Food starts tasting like cardboard.


Lap 16 - five of us left, my foot hurts


Lap 17 - I finish 2.5minutes before the full hour, my foot really hurts, medics say they will meet me half way at lap 18 and do heat spray and give me paracetamol.


Lap 18 - Four of us left. I know this is my last lap, I am so slow, I hobble and meet the medics half way through and everyone knows that I won’t make it back on time, at my usual time check point my watch shows 41minutes - but I keep going to collect the token and complete the lap. At the token and turnaround point, the marshall says that I can do it with 9 minutes spare and starts running ahead of me - I don’t know how, but I run all the way till the finish and am there with 40sec spare. I remember running in the sunshine and the feeling of happiness, gratitude and knowing that I’m ready to finish. This is it for me - I gave my everything. The finish line support is amazing and everyone shouts my name.


I ran 76miles and 11214ft elevation - 123km and 3219m. I started at 6pm on Friday and finished at 12pm on Saturday. 13hours in the darkness and cold.


I was the fourth person standing and the 2nd female standing.


It was an insane adventure - Darren at @3wordruns could not make this event better. Each runner received a little personal box with all the tokens we collected and a special blend of coffee weighing 4.167oz - one of the best post race gifts! The atmosphere and people are what makes those events special - and this one was a BIG one 💚."








CAMINO:


In most running races or events you can have one runner that crosses the line as the winner. In Backyard if the final runner does not complete an extra lap then there are no winners. In the short history of Backyards there have already been many incredible stories - those where the final two have pushed each other to super-human levels, to moments where great acts of kindness have dictated how the second place person "The Assist" has chosen how to end things. So in the Backyard there are stories from the first drop out through to the Assist and any can be meaningful.

We are grateful that the Winter Longbridge Backyard Assist - John Gunnel shares his story with us all.


JOHN:


"I signed up after hearing about the crazy concept of a backyard ultra from a friend. Had run some much shorter trail events before with some climbs but nothing to prepare for what Longbridge was going to expect physically and mentally. The yard course was insanely relentless. Constantly demanding effort and motivation to tick landmarks lap by lap. Setting of in the dark guided by an incredible full moon and decoration of stars had a sense of novelty. High spirited chats with likeminded fellow runners made fairly easy work of the opening few yards. Then the bitter frost came in and the temperature dropped as did the chat. It was hard to ignore the groans and keep focus on the end goal. Dipping deep in to gratification kept me going.


The mental challenge to get the legs moving on the hour again and again in most other circumstances would have broke me, but the atmosphere of this unique event was different - built on good people invested with a true passion and love for running and others happiness. It was addictive. The communities care and interest in my experience and wellbeing was overwhelming and made me feel stronger lap by lap.


Making it down to the last 2 standing was beyond my expectations I had seen some really strong and experienced runners call their time. It is a surreal culture to feel true disappointed when your now buddies leave you, I guess my mentality was more the merrier for as long as possible. I am competitive by nature but had a different flavour I was inspired and energised more by the fellow runners. Then there was Dan (Lawson) running with him was something special. From the get go he was upbeat and provided the with needed humour during the madness. When down to just the 2 of us I was privileged to get to really know him, learn from him, and most importantly follow him to my 100miles in 24hr goal. It was an easy decision to give Dan the floor to run a mind bogglingly fast last to the win because he’s an inspirational legend and now a friend.


I will be doing everything I can to spread the love of this epic event (and the summer event) to all that I know as it’s got everything. Darren and all associated should be proud of all the details that make it work so well. Top top people and a running community I hope I can be part of as long as I can still run!"




Dan picks up his winners Box after 25 Yards


CAMINO: Over the past year we have been fortunate enough to collaborate with Michael and the team from Hylo Athletics.

Both Michael and Dan Lawson were wearing a pair of the prototype Hylo Impacts - a new trainer that has stood up extremely well in some of our recent road tests but the Longbridge Backyard course in winter would be a completely new set of challenges.

Michael came into this event lacking the type of fitness that he would have wanted but what he achieved will serve him well for the up and coming LA to Las Vegas Speed Project. Here's Michael kindly sharing how his first Backyard went.





MICHAEL:


"I headed into the Longbridge backyard muttering to myself with annoyance that I had left it till the 26th to have my first proper long run of the year. I could have at least eased myself in.


And Yes. It's safe to say I felt deeply unprepared.


But the beauty of backyard is as ultra marathons go... it's the most inclusive event of the lot.


Do as much or as little as you like. Run, walk, talk but just make sure you get your ass in before the bell. And all those thoughts quickly disappeared as our feet pounded together running through the 'gnarly' according to mark and david trails of Longbridge.

With each mile, I quickly let go of any expectation about my performance and settled into the trance of running with friends and my fellow nutters who had chosen to spend their Friday nights in minus 3 degree temperatures.


And let's not forget the heroic Marshall's who set new bars of human kindness standing in steel pens alone in the dark for hours upon end.


And then there's Darren. The event leader. The tone. Setter. From the outset. Preparedness personified. Years of building up credit through his immense acts of humanity in the community, Everyone there wanted to be there. Yes to support the runners but you couldn't help but feel they were there to support Darren, for all the unspoken things he has done over time.


And finally Dan. The master. Teaching us all about the triviality of competition when runners run and immortals glide. He is pure joy. Connecting with each person one by one as he chewed up the miles with consummate ease.


We are lucky to have witnessed him throw down and clarify once and for all. All you need to run is a good pair of shoes and a smile.


Run like the world depends. Longbridge. You were beautiful.










255 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment


This sounds really intriguing actually!!

Like
bottom of page