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North Vancouver man runs 275 km to win ‘backyard’ ultramarathon

Jonny Bullock tallied more than 290K steps over a 41-hour period
North Vancouver’s Jonny Bullock runs one of 41 laps of a 6.7-kilometre loop in Abbotsford, where he won the inaugural Fat Dog Backyard Ultra on March 24. | Courtesy of Erik Bird

In this race, you only win if everyone else gives up.

And that’s what happened to North Vancouver’s Jonny Bullock on March 24, after running a gruelling 275 kilometres over a 41-hour period.

At the inaugural Fat Dog Backyard Ultra in Abbotsford, competitors circled a 6.7 km loop in under an hour as many times they can. During the race, Bullock and Adreas Klawitter of Abbotsford duked it out for 40 laps. But Bullock was the only one to make it to 41.

If the format isn’t brutal enough, the final pair are the only officially recognized in the results: Bullock with a place, Klawitter with an assist and the rest with a “did not finish.”

Life after the extreme distance race is another challenge unto itself. Over the phone, Bullock described the severe bruising and swelling in the lower half of his body, his 50-per-cent brain power and having to respond to neighbours asking why he’s walking around like a zombie.

“I keep taking little breaks, putting my hands on my knees and hunched over to recuperate from it,” he said. “And this is all within 200 metres of the house – just very small steps.”

Previously, Bullock had ran several other long-distance races: a few ultras, a 100-mile, a couple 50 km events. A big part of the appeal of those long runs is taking in all the beautiful sights and going on a journey, he said. But the backyard event is just the same old loop, over and over, again and again.

“It’s quite monotonous,” Bullock said.

Yet, at the same time, it's like a roller coaster ride.

"You have ups and downs, emotionally and physically. You feel that you’re at your lowest, and you wouldn’t be able to do another lap, then you drag yourself for another one or two, things pick up and feel fresh again, and you could go all day," he said. “So it’s riding those waves, which is quite fun."

41 hours, 290K steps, more than 15K calories

When he finally hobbled over the finish line for the last time, Bullock said it took him a bit to get over the disbelief that he could finally stop running.

“Erik (Bird), the race director, had to say it was over a few times before it kicked in,” he said.

All in all, Bullock averaged a lap time of 45 minutes and 41 seconds, using the 10 to 15 minutes left over each hour to eat, drink and change his shoes. He spent 31 hours moving during a 41-hour race time. In total, he tallied 290,000 steps and burned between 15,000 and 20,000 calories.

Bullock attributes his success to being “very stubborn” and his desire to push himself beyond anything he’s done before. He also thanks his partner Finn Roberson, who was his race manager, and the rest of the team that supported him.

In his bruised and battered state, Bullock said he is grateful to be able to work from home, and said he is going to cut back on distance running for the foreseeable future.

That is, unless he is chosen for a national team – British or Canadian – for the Backyard Ultra World Championship in Tennessee, held at the same location as the famous Barkley Marathons.

Chilliwack’s Ihor Verys recently won the Barkley race in March. Verys also came second in the Backyard Championship last October, after running more than 715 km.

“If I had the opportunity to get on there, I wouldn’t be able to resist,” Bullock said.


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