Ambassador Sam Harvey has equalled the world record for most laps in a single Backyard Ultramarathon by running 677.31km – or 101 laps – at an event in Australia.
The Kiwi from Canterbury achieved his long-held ambition on Wednesday June 20, but fell agonisingly short of his shot at the record when being forced to withdraw by medics after developing breathing difficulties and suspected pneumonia.
Reflecting on the race, he said: "I still had more in the tank - stay tuned to see what I can do at Bigs - this isn't over yet."
The athlete was referring to 'Bigs' Backyard Ultra, also the World Champs which will be held in Tennessee on October 21.
His departure from the race left his only remaining rival, Australian Phil Gore, to set the new all-time benchmark in this event format, billed as ‘the race with no finish line‘, with 102 laps – 683km.
Sam and 53 other crazy runners, including the New Zealand, Australian and US record-holders, set off in the Dead Cow Gully Backyard Ultra on Saturday morning, braving below-zero temperatures at night to 22C conditions during the day.
Their mission was to run a 6.7km loop around the dusty cattle ranch as many times as they could until there was just one man standing (more on Backyard Ultras below). Five harrowing days later, on Wednesday afternoon, there were just two runners left; Sam and Phil, the current Australian record holder.
Previous records tumbled from lap 76
The Australian record was broken on lap 76 and then the American record was passed on lap 85. Harvey Lewis, holder of that American record, made up the gang of three leading into Wednesday night but dropped out on loop 90 when succumbing to sleep whilst running.
Sam and Phil managed to complete the world record distance of 101 laps, equalling the previous ultra-distance benchmark set by two Belgium runners in October 2022.
Setting off for loop 102, Sam started and then turned back, tapping out after 101 hours. Phil managed one more lap and managed to set a new world record of 102 loops or 683km.
About Sam Harvey - the relative novice with huge goals
Sam set the New Zealand Backyard Ultra record last October with a distance of 46 loops/309km.
He booked his golden ticket to the Big Dogs Backyard Ultra in Tennessee at the Riverhead Relaps Backyard Ultra in March, where he ran for 33 hours with broken ribs to win the event after 221km.
Since March, he has twice raced in Australia – recording a top-ten in the 100km Ultra-Trail Australia and then saving his best for this week's ‘Dead Cow Gully’ Backyard Ultra in Queensland, held just a month later.
What is a Backyard Ultra?
A backyard ultra is a form of ultramarathon race where competitors must consecutively run a circuit of 6.7km every hour and the only breaks they get for food or rest are the spare minutes they have between completing a lap early and a new hour starting.
The peculiar distance - 6,706 metres every lap to be precise - means that should a runner compete for 24 hours, and therefore do 24 laps, they will have run exactly 100 miles or
A backyard ultramarathon only finishes when there is one competitor left and they manage to complete a loop on their own. If the final runner doesn’t manage a solo circuit, they too are registered as DNF and the race has no true winner.
‘Last Man on Earth’ prize next stop for Sam
CurraNZ met Sam at the Tarawera Ultramarathon in February, where he expressed his goal of setting a new world record at this event. His sentiments were clear, saying “I have no intention to achieve anything less than complete and utter domination in this sport”.
So we listened. It was clear that Sam could do with CurraNZ - an essential part of any endurance athlete’s toolkit - for his record-breaking bid and welcomed this relative novice to our team of ultra-running ambassadors.
We’re all astounded at Sam’s accomplishment and super-human effort which saw him double his previous distance record.
We’ve stocked him up with CurraNZ to aid his recovery and we’ll be cheering him on in October when he takes on the world’s best for the coveted title of the 'Last Man on Earth' at the 'home' of the Backyard Ultra in Tennessee, created by Lazarus Lake (pictured, with Sam above).