- The pressure and excitement of having a hard cut off time constantly looming.
- The opportunity and motivation to push yourself beyond what you thought your limits were.
- Reaching a deeper state of being.
I certainly have not made a secret of my intentions to run at Big’s. However, I don’t think I have ever explained in depth why I set this as my “A” goal above all other racing or FKT goals. Before explaining why running at Big’s became my highest priority goal, I feel the need to explain how I became interested in this race format to begin with. It began with an interest in Laz as a person and as a race director. Running the Barkley Marathon never really piqued my interest. The race and format interests me, I just have never had any intent at the time of learning about it or since to run it myself. His backyard format race though immediately made me wonder how long I would last and how far I could go. Then seeing records broken and competitors dig and push the boundaries of what I thought was possible I became increasingly intrigued with the format and wanted to test myself at it.
To my benefit, and likely in large part due to Courtney Dauwalter’s amazing performance at the 2018 Big’s, the backyard format started gaining more attention and received much wider coverage. This led to numerous backyard format races popping up throughout the US and eventually worldwide. In 2019, a backyard format race, Run Ragged, that was pretty local to me was announced. I registered for it and a question on the registration form was “How many laps do you plan to run?” I answered as honestly as I could at the time with my knowledge of backyards and my goal for the race, “One lap more than the second to last person standing.” Yes, maybe it was cocky, but I was going there with the intention of winning.
After doing just that and assessing my experience at Run Ragged, I didn’t know if I even liked the format or if I would ever do another. What the format introduced me to that I had not experienced previously was the feeling of chasing cut offs. I’m not trying to brag as I am by no means an amazingly fast runner, I would consider myself a middle of the pack runner at best, but I had never feared missing a cut off at any standard set distance races I had run. I had never felt stressed to make it to an aid station with the clock counting down to a cut off time. My first experience with that was at Run Ragged as that is essentially what a backyard format is, a 4.1667 mile loop with a one hour cut off. You are always within one hour of missing a cut off no matter your average pace. This was a form of stress new to me while racing and a completely novel experience. At first, I didn’t think I liked it, but over time and with more experiences, I have come to enjoy the excitement this sort of pressure to perform brings to racing.
As an additional beneficial effect of the relentless and never-ending pressure of looming cut offs, the backyard race format also provides an opportunity and motivation to push yourself beyond what you thought your limits were. Everyone has their own reasons for running in general and anyone who gets into ultrarunning usually has additional reasons for pursuing that niche of the running world. A major reason why I was attracted to ultrarunning was to find my limit and to see what my mind and body are capable of when pushed beyond what I accepted their limits to be. After several years of running set distance ultras, I felt like I was still pushing myself, but not to the point where I was questioning if finishing was possible. After the first couple 100 milers, I no longer questioned if I would finish. It simply became a matter of when. That reason alone drew my attention to backyards. Since there can be only one finisher, everyone else will find their limit on that given day. That’s what attracted me to ultras to begin with, to find my limit. The backyard format could finally deliver that to me so it was only natural that I would gravitate towards them. After running several backyards (Run Ragged, Last Idiot Standing, Keystone Backyard Ultra, and Backyard Squatch Ultra) and being the last runner standing without having found my limit, I concluded I needed to go bigger and enter bigger backyard races with deeper fields. What backyard could be bigger than the originator of the backyard format, Big’s Backyard? My mind was made up, I would run at Big’s. No more being a big fish in a little pond, I wanted to run with the big dogs at Big’s.
So far, this post has covered my key reasons for being attracted to the backyard race format. I haven’t specifically state why I made Big’s Backyard my goal race to reach. I hinted at it with the topic of running more competitive backyards with deeper fields, but there are other backyard races out there that have resulted in some pretty impressive distances run, much farther than I have ever gone or thought possible. Why did I pick Big’s over others? An additional motivating factor for me is to earn a spot as a member of the USA National Backyard Team, representing the USA running with some of the best backyard runners in the world: Courtney Dauwalter, Maggie Guterl, Harvey Lewis, and Michael Wardian among others. The only opportunity to achieve this is at Big’s. I think most kids dream about achieving the pinnacle of success in some sport, whether it be winning the super bowl or an Olympic gold medal. I had these dreams as a kid too, but none of them panned out. Now I have an opportunity to reach what I would say is or at least near the pinnacle of backyard ultrarunning, to earn a spot on the USA National Team. I believe I am capable of achieving that so in my view I’m doing a disservice to myself to not pursue it.