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Let's Go Round Again - A Tale of a Backyard Ultra

Harrier Content Creator, Sarah Perry recently participated in the Greener Miles Cowshed Backyard Ultra as part of the Four Nations Competition, running for Team England and she did rather well! 

Mary chatted to her via Zoom recently about ultras, running in the Lakes and what she's got coming up. You can watch the video here:

 

"For those that aren't familiar with the format of a Backyard Ultra challenge, you need to complete 4.2 miles within the hour and be ready to start the next lap on the hour. The motto is 'it's easy until it's not'. One thing that I love about these events is that it's not a race of speed but endurance. This also means that men and women are competing against each other as there can only be one winner.

 

With this being a Four Nations event, there were some strong runners out. Each team is made up of ten runners (to include at least two women). Following a win at a Welsh BYU last year, I felt mixed emotions at being asked to join the team. 1. What an honour to be asked to represent your country in anything. 2. It's slap bang in the middle of my Easter holidays and I'd quite like to go on the biggest adventure that I can find. Luke worked his magic on me for a few weeks until I reluctantly agreed. 

 Being on 'home turf' meant that there were lots of familiar faces, which was lovely. I spent the first afternoon dipping in and out of conversations with various runners; catching up and going through the usual checklist: past/ upcoming races, kit, injuries - you know the drill.  The course was interesting with a few bumps, some tricky terrain and the heat was relentless on Saturday. By the time darkness drew in, I couldn't be more glad of a break from the sun. I find it so peaceful running in the dark and it was nice to just space out a little more. 

As expected, numbers decreased rapidly during the night and by sunrise I was able to take a good look around at the real competition. 

To be honest, a lot of the race blurs into one. Hours upon hours of running around the same loop and doing the same routines don't make for a very memorable race. If you can zone out, you'll do well at this format. 

I like to describe a BYU as a luxury ultra, when else would you have a checkpoint and everything you need every 4.2 miles and need to carry nothing? That being said, there's nothing glamorous about it. Once you start clocking up the miles, it's just as messy as any other ultra. I didn't feel great all the time but I didn't expect to. 

By lunchtime on Sunday, there were 13 runners still out on course who had all completed 100 miles in 24 hours. Unfortunately, I was the last standing member of team England which meant that we couldn't rack up any more points. This didn't mean that I wasn't going to keep running for myself. Soon later, the teams left and the field was much quieter. The sun popped out again to see which runners it could tempt to stop: if you go now you'll be in the beer garden in an hour. 

We battled on from there until we were down to the last few; none of us showing any sign of relenting. I ignored what they were doing, kept my head down and stayed consistent. I knew I had many more miles in my legs and all considered, felt fine. At this point, I still didn't know how many hours I'd be running for so I kept up with eating and drinking as if I'd be running another wad of miles. 

 As the second night approached, there were only two. I knew that Paul was capable of big mileage, he's done the Spine. Headphones in, I set about getting through the next laps. Although I was looking forward to the night again, I knew that the second night would be harder. Luckily, I wasn't going to find out what it would bring, Paul retired at 8pm and so all I had to do to win was go out on one more lap - a victory lap. 

After 33 hours and 138 miles, I could finally stop running! It was all a bit of an anti-climax if I'm honest, all I wanted to do was go home. Some people had come out especially to encourage me and I just had nothing to say. At least in an ultra, you're building up to getting closer to the finish line. In a BYU you've no idea that the finish line is there until you've seen the second person drop out.  

There was such a phenomenal amount of support around the course, from people I knew, marshals and even the house on course blazing out 'the final countdown' and ' we are the champions' whilst cheering loudly. The biggest support came from Luke, who made at least 33 cups of sugary tea, prepared 33 meals and hardly slept at all throughout. Sometimes I genuinely think that crewing is harder than running. 

A huge 'thank you' to Harrier & Friends of Harrier for all of the kind words and support. I spent the following day going through all of the messages of and genuinely felt overwhelmed; what a special community! 

Will I do another? I'm not sure, I love adventures and exploring places whilst running. I'll never say never though."

About the author:

Harrier Content Creator Sarah Perry loves running on the trails or in the hills with her partner Luke and dog Murphy. Her obsession with ultra running led her to complete many events in the past including Wainwright's Coast to Coast, for which she holds the women's FKT. She loves to run to explore and is looking forward to getting out on more of the UK's trails in the coming months and years.


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